Plant-Based in 2023: Major Milestones, Events, and What Is Still to Come?
As 2023 starts to draw to a close, it’s time to reflect on what a bumper year it has been for the plant-based sector. From new food launches to legal woes and everything in between, the meat-free industry has experienced the full gamut of commercial successes and complications. Still, overall, things look to be ending on a positive note.
Here is a recap of some of 2023’s biggest news stories, plus a look at what we can expect before the year officially ends.
Plant-based food launches in 2023
Beyond Meat launched a new line of plant-based chicken nuggets and strips, plus much-anticipated steak pieces. All are made from pea and bean protein, but the latter received extra praise by securing approval from the American Heart Association thanks to its zero cholesterol and low saturated fat levels.
Texas-based startup Crafty Counter launched its vegan-friendly hard-boiled egg alternatives, dubbed WunderEggs, earlier this year to rapturous praise. Consumers have been particularly impressed by the taste and texture, which has been hailed as comparable to conventional chicken-laid eggs. Egg white patties followed later in the year offering more plant-based breakfast options to US diners.
Unilever-owned brand Ben and Jerry’s continued to cater to its plant-based fandom in 2023 with the release of new flavors that brought the number of dairy-free options to 19. The manufacturer also recently revealed that it is changing its recipe to use oat milk in place of almond, to improve the taste and texture of its frozen desserts.
Convenience chain 7-Eleven embraced the plant-based trend in 2023 by including grab-and-go menu items in its Canadian and Swedish outlets. The latter started slowly, by introducing oat milk as an option for hot drinks.
Impossible Foods launched its most audacious burger yet in June of this year. The Impossible Indulgent Burger is reportedly the brand’s meatiest, juiciest and most flavorsome launch to date. Earlier in the year in a health-conscious move, Impossible Beef Lite was launched, which saw a ground beef alternative debuted with 75% less saturated fat than lean animal protein.
Bad publicity for plant-based giants
The plant-based sector has continued to show growth in 2023, with many major brands increasing their presence and product catalogs. However, some have faced scrutiny that has cast a shadow over their achievements.
Swedish oat milk behemoth Oatly has experienced sector turbulence in recent years. From accusations of greenwashing to product recalls and risky ad campaigns, the once undeniable leader of the oat milk world has fallen from grace significantly. In order to stem the backlash, Oatly announced a new incoming CEO in May 2023. Toni Petersson–of ‘wow, no cow’ infamy–has since been replaced by Jean-Christophe Flatin, but some observers appear to view the move as a last-ditch attempt to get back on top.
July saw the Guardian report that numerous food items labeled as ‘vegan’ contained egg, milk, or both. More than 20 products were confirmed to contain ingredients that could lead to severe or even deadly allergic reactions, if consumed by sensitive eaters. Chocolate, pizza, and burgers were amongst the foods tested. Furthermore, investigators discovered multiple labeling inaccuracies, including misleading nutritional information.
Plant-based takeovers that shocked
One of the most surprising announcements this year was that the UK brand Meatless farm was struggling and facing administration. Perhaps more shocking still, was that fellow alt-meat manufacturer VFC jumped in and acquired the former, saving it from ruin. The takeover was completed in June, allowing supply of Meatless Farm products to restart quickly in August.
More recently, VFC acquired another meat-free brand, this time Clive’s Purely Plants. Just as with Meatless Farm, the Clive’s brand will continue under its own steam, selling its range of pies and quiches, while under the VFC umbrella.
Scientific research that supported plant-based eating in 2023
Throughout the year scientific research has revealed that plant-based diets are more than just beneficial for animal welfare and the environment. In fact, they have been proven to have a positive impact on a number of serious and life-threatening conditions.
Alongside lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and suffering from heart disease, plant-based foods have also shown potential to lessen the impact of, or even prevent, PTSD. Often a trigger for critical conditions including autoimmune diseases, strokes, and early death, PTSD is often deemed hard to treat, as it centers around emotional and mental health. Now, scientists claim that eating a plant-based diet could help with treatment and prevention, though they concede that more research is prudent.
Major plant-based events
Veganuary celebrated 10 years of operation in 2023 and had the biggest global sign-up ever witnessed by the event organizers, with more than 700,000 people pledging to ditch animal products for 31 days. The figure broke down to represent nearly every country in the world with only Vatican City and North Korea not included. The Veganuary team has been edging closer to the coveted one million sign-ups each year.
Plant Based World Expo, the largest North American plant-based food and beverage celebration, was held in Los Angeles in June. More than 4,000 stakeholders came together to explore new opportunities, learn about consumer trends, and make plans for a profitable 2024.
The Vegan Women Summit was held in May, in New York, and brought together a host of industry leaders, fronted by Jennifer Stojkovic. Miyoko Schinner attended as Conference Chair and offered insight into her experiences as a brand leader. The conference was an opportunity for all genders to network and look to the future of plant-based industries with talks covering key sectors including food, fashion, and beauty.
Still to come
Europe’s Plant Based Expo event is being held from November 15-16, in London. Like its North American counterpart, it will present significant opportunities for individuals from the plant-based sector to network and gain insight into emerging trends