It’s been a big year in vegan media, and honestly, even that feels like an understatement. 2023 has seen so much growth and progress across the board. We’ve had inspiring celebrity stories (did you know Cher eats like a Blue Zoner?), new groundbreaking research (like this fascinating study into identical twins), and plenty of heartwarming content (yes, cows really do have best friends. No we’re not crying—it’s the onions).
It’s been incredibly difficult to pick the top 10 stories of 2023, but somehow, we’ve managed it. Taco Bell and Kraft really pulled it out of the bag this year (anyone else can’t stop eating blue box vegan mac and cheese?), and Hershey’s, too (thank you, vegan chocolate Gods). But while there have been many high points, we’ve also had to say goodbye to one animal icon (RIP, Esther) and we saw Miyoko Schinner part ways with her eponymous vegan cheese brand.
But overall, we have to say, in the vegan world, the vibes were good. Here are just a handful of our top stories from the year. Cheers to 2024, we can’t wait to find out all the great news we’ll be sharing with you come the new year.
VegNews’ Top 10 Stories of 2023
1 Hershey’s Launches Vegan Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
Back in the spring, Hershey’s made many chocolate lover’s dreams come true when it launched the first-ever vegan version of its iconic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. And that wasn’t all, it also launched Hershey’s Plant-Based Extra Creamy with Almonds and Sea Salt.
“Our purpose is to create more moments of goodness for consumers,” a spokesperson for The Hershey Company told VegNews at the time of the launch. “We are excited to make those moments more accessible now for chocolate lovers looking for plant-based alternatives.”
2 Taco Bell Launches First Vegan Crunchwrap
The Crunchwrap is one of Taco Bell’s most-loved menu items, but because it’s usually made with animal products, it has long been off the menu for vegan customers. But this year, that all changed. The popular fast food chain started trialing its first-ever Vegan Crunchwrap, complete with plant-based beef, dairy-free sour cream, and nacho sauce, in select locations back in June.
“We never want our vegan and vegetarian fans to feel like they have to compromise at Taco Bell. The goal while in product development was to create a vegan alternative that was just as crave-able as the original, while also being equally convenient as a ready-to-order menu item with no modifications needed,” Missy Schaaphok, Taco Bell’s Director of Global Nutrition & Sustainability, told VegNews.
3 Kraft’s First Vegan Cheese Singles Roll Out Nationwide
Back in the summer, Kraft took everyone’s vegan cheeseburgers to the next level when it launched its new vegan Kraft NotCheese slices in collaboration with Chile-based The Not Company nationwide. The slices are available in Cheddar, American, and Provolone flavors.
4 Taco Bell Launches Vegan Nacho Fries
Yep, it’s another entry from Taco Bell, because this year, the TexMex chain stepped up its vegan game. In September, it announced it was debuting Vegan Nacho Sauce, meaning that plant-based diners could order Taco Bell’s Nacho Fries without dairy for the first time.
“This sauce, born from the success of our Vegan Crunchwrap, represents Taco Bell’s commitment to providing delicious, crave-able food for a variety of lifestyles—whether you’re vegan, flexitarian, or want to try something new, there’s a place for you at our table,” Liz Matthews, Global Chief Food Innovation Officer at Taco Bell, said in a statement.
5 Billie Eilish and Finneas Are Opening a Vegan Restaurant in Los Angeles
Not content with topping the charts, music duo Billie Eilish and Finneas also decided that 2023 was the year when they would enter the restaurant business. The siblings partnered with vegan restauranteur Nic Adler to open a new plant-based Italian restaurant in Los Angeles, called Argento. “I want plant-based food to be more accessible,” Eilish said at the time.
6 Kraft’s Iconic Blue Box Mac and Cheese Finally Ditches the Dairy
Kraft was the brand that kept on giving this year. After launching its vegan cheese slices in the summer, in November the food giant launched a dairy-free version of its iconic blue box Macaroni & Cheese. Again, it’s made with vegan cheese from The Not Company.
“By leveraging the strengths of both companies, we’re offering the creamy and comforting experience Kraft Mac & Cheese fans have loved for over 85 years—without the dairy,” Lucho Lopez-May, CEO of The Kraft Heinz Not Company, said.
7 Miyoko Schinner Removed as CEO From $260 Million Vegan Cheese Brand
In February, Miyoko’s Creamery announced it was parting ways with founder and CEO Miyoko Schinner, shocking fans of the brand, as well as Schinner herself, who wasn’t aware the news was about to be publicly announced. In October, however, the entrepreneur and chef reassured VegNews that she was doing just fine. In fact, she is better than fine. “This may come as a surprise, but I’m actually doing fantastically,” she said. “I mean that in a very, very genuine, real way. Had you asked me that three months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to say the same.”
8 Beloved Farm Animal Ambassador Esther the Wonder Pig Dies
Also in October, the sad news came that Esther the Wonder Pig, a beloved ambassador for farm animals all over the world, had died. She inspired several books, accumulated nearly 580,000 followers on Instagram, and even motivated her dads, Steve Jenkins and Derek Walters, to open a farm animal sanctuary.
“Thank you Esther for showing millions how beautiful, sweet, and funny pigs really are, and we thank you, Steve and Derek, for letting us all follow along,” a spokesperson for PETA wrote on Esther’s Instagram page after her death was announced. “Love her forever, the pig who changed the world for pigs.”
9 Eat an Impossible Burger—It’s Good for Your Heart, Says AHA
In November, the American Heart Association (AHA) confirmed that yes, plant-based meat can be beneficial for heart health. The organization granted Impossible Foods’ Beef Lite with its Heart-Check Food Certification. In May, Beyond Meat’s Beyond Steak was awarded the same certification. “For nearly 100 years, the American Heart Association has been helping people live longer, healthier lives,” Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown said in a statement in May. “As part of that legacy, the Heart-Check Mark has become a gold standard in empowering consumers to make informed health decisions.”
10 The ‘Chicken Run’ Sequel Is About to Change Everyone’s Mind About Nuggets
And finally, in December, we covered the news that experts are expecting the sequel to the biggest stop motion animation film of all time to inspire a whole new generation of vegans. Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget follows the same gang of chickens from the original Chicken Run as they attempt to break into a factory farm to save their fellow birds from becoming nuggets.
“We want the film to be engaging and entertaining and a great ride, mostly,” Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget director Sam Fell said, per the Guardian. “But yes, if you come away and you think a little bit more like a chicken by the end of it, then that’s not a bad thing.”