Brave New Vegan

Posted by on Mar 16, 2015 in Sustainability

iStock_000015505782LargeThe revolution is here and it will be veganized. From the popularity of Meatless Monday to vegan “sofritas” burritos at Chipotle to eggless mayo from Hampton Creek, the food industry is at a plant-based tipping point.

Less than a decade ago, for mainstream Americans, the term “vegan” probably conjured up images of tie-dyed, patchouli scented hippies making their own granola and hemp clothing. At the very least, being vegan was on the dietary fringe, a small yet devoted community of people eschewing all animal-based food and materials.

Oh, how times have changed.

We now find ourselves squarely in the middle of the perfect storm of technology, climate change, and health concerns, not to mention a growing awareness of — and unease about — the practices of factory farming. Meat alternatives and an increase in plant-based eating have made the list of 2015 biggest growth trends everywhere from the National Restaurant Association to Time.

A recent article in The Economist points out that “the traditional food industry is ripe for disruption because it is inefficient, inhumane and in need of an overhaul,” and highlights the tremendous surge of capital that is going into such companies as Hampton Creek, Impossible Foods, and the unfortunately-named Soylent, which makes a beverage designed to be a “complete substitute for food.”

Take a stroll down the aisles of your local Whole Foods or MOMs Organic Market. Vegan options are sprouting up faster than mushrooms on compost. Old standbys like Tofurky and Daiya are now flanked by countless new products from leading edge food companies such as Beyond Meat and Gardein. All-vegan restaurant chains like Native Foods are booming, spreading the veggie love coast to coast. Mainstream restaurants are eagerly incorporating vegan options into their menus. And traditional restaurateurs are expanding their culinary empires into the vegetable realm.

Grassfed Media has seen first-hand the growth and popularity of vegan food. Last year, we helped Compassion Over Killing draw more than 15,000 people to its annual DC VegFest. And just this month, one of our clients, Chef Todd Gray of Equinox Restaurant, issued a Vegan Smackdown Challenge to chefs, asking them to offer up meaty recipes to be made vegan.

Chefs José Andrés (Jaleo, Zaytinya, and others), Carla Hall (The Chew), Jamie Leeds (Hank’s Oyster Bar), Spike Mendelsohn (Good Stuff Eatery), and Iron Chef Cat Cora stepped up to test Chef Gray’s mettle. The results will play out on Equinox’s Vegan Tasting and Vegan Brunch menus for the next few months.

This is an exciting time to be in the food industry. It’s a time for smart new minds to find solutions to factory farming practices that destroy the environment. A time to stop eating inhumanely raised animals. A time to support innovative food companies. A time to change the way we eat.

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