Hold on to your hummus, because in 2017 millennials continued to lead a global shift toward plant-based eating. This shift has become a major force in the food industry in the past decade, but the vegan news of 2017 showed plant-based food isn’t limited to young people eating bowls and toasts. Last year proved vegan eating is for everyone, as people of color, older people and men all took prominent seats at the vegan table.

Seemingly no sector of the economy remained untouched – from corporate boardrooms to professional sports teams to commercial kichens – as the popularity, visibility and practicality of vegan eating rose throughout 2017.

Last year, National Public Radio examined whether urging people to reduce their meat consumption or to go full vegan creates a greater total reduction in the amount of meat eaten.

CNBC reported on a group of powerful investors known as the Vegan Mafia pouring money into plant-based startups.

And the British magazine The Economist handed out free vegan burgers from a food truck in Washington, D.C., to help sell subscriptions.

Think about that: A 174-year-old magazine based in London handed out vegan burgers. In America’s capital. To boost its brand.


That’s so 2017.

So was the editorial published by British newspaper The Guardian in September titled “The Guardian view on veganism: high in moral fibre.” The piece praised those who eat vegan and urged detractors to “stop crying over spelt milk.”

The change in conversation could also be heard in Canada, where the government plans to release new dietary guidelines this year. Policy watchers expect a shift to plant-based diets, for both health and environmental reasons, will be endorsed and that dairy products will lose their recommended status. (Good luck getting the cow’s milk lobby to quit crying if that happens.)

On the other side of the planet, The Australian reported in May: “Once upon a not very tasty time, when a walnut roast was the most inedible invention in the history of food, vegans were regarded as complete nuts. Then veganism became a thing, with cookbooks and pretty bloggers and celebrities and added facon. And now vegans aren’t just a thing, they are … everywhere.”


The ubiquitous nature of vegan eating was easy to spot among the celebrity set in 2017.


In November, the English-speaking world buzzed with news that Britain’s Prince Harry will marry American TV and film star Meghan Markle on May 19 at Windsor Castle. Not only is she an American royal-to-be, Markle is known for eating vegan on weekdays, particularly when filming. (She’ll reportedly retire from acting once married, so we’ll see whether the monarchy squeezes out her vegan sense or if she can influence the traditionally meaty institution with her modern approach to food.)

American actress Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s fiancee, eats vegan on weekdays.

Other actors talking publicly about eating vegan in 2017 included Craig Robinson (“The Office,” “Pineapple Express”) and Laverne Cox, Danielle Brooks and Ruby Rose (all stars of the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black”).

Even Christian evangelist Franklin Graham went vegan with the new year and chronicled it on Twitter. (On Day No. 28 he was loving vegan chili, but by April 1 he’d left the vegan bus and run off to McDonald’s.)

For greater longevity from eating mostly plants, let’s talk professional sports.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s fondness for vegan food is not news, but in 2017 he gained a new celebrity status as one of the early adopters influencing other sports stars to try it. In the NFL the vegan food club now includes Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota.

The Titans boast another prominent figure in vegan food: outside linebacker Derrick Morgan. He and his wife, Charity Morgan, a classically trained chef turned vegan, were credited with influencing at least 11 teammates to try a vegan diet in 2017.


Out on the basketball court, the NBA is experiencing what one headline writer called a “vegan revolution,” as a growing list of players adopt plant-based diets. These include Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving, Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, Brooklyn Nets center Jahlil Okafor, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and Golden State Warriors center JaVale McGee.

Even on the auto racing track, vegan eating is taking hold. Lewis Hamilton, a British Formula One world champion, talked openly about eating vegan during 2017, as did NASCAR driver Landon Cassill.


Another sign of the vegan times in 2017 was the growth in vegan events. VegFests continued to draw crowds across the country and around the world, but the trend emerging in 2017 was seasonal and themed vegan events.

For example, the holiday season brought a Vegan Winter Market to Toronto and a three-day Vegan Christmas Market to London. (London also boasts a regular vegan night market and the weekly Broadway Vegan Market.)

The three-week Vegan Festival of Britain featured food festivals, pop-up parties, veganized English breakfasts and specially brewed vegan ale across the British Isles.


Over on this side of the Atlantic, 3,000 people turned out for the second annual Baltimore Vegan Mac and Cheese Smackdown, which featured 28 vendors. Portland, Oregon veganized the Restaurant Week concept with the first-ever Veg Week (where 24 restaurants offered half-priced vegan entrees). And on the West Coast in September, residents of Los Angeles mixed vegan eats with nightlife during two Street Fair Nights in North Hollywood.

Maine kept pace with this trend, as Peace Ridge Sanctuary in Durham hosted the state’s first vegan Oktoberfest party. (Tickets sold out days in advance.)


One of the least likely places to hold a party – the cafeteria – also turned more vegan in 2017. The biggest news was out of Los Angeles, where city schools pilot-tested a daily vegan lunch choice to great success, and this year will offer the vegan option at every school in the district.

Meatless Monday plans were announced in the Syracuse, New York school district and the New York City district, which will pilot-test all-vegetarian breakfasts and lunches at 15 Brooklyn schools on Mondays. (To show solidarity, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the mayor’s residence will go meat-free on Mondays, too.)

In South America, three Brazilian school districts plan to serve only vegan meals one day a week. And in Argentina in October, President Mauricio Macri ordered that all food served on Mondays at the presidential palace be vegan.


Also in 2017, McDonald’s – you read that right, McDonald’s – rolled out vegan burgers in Finland, Sweden and Norway.

Back in the United States, major meat brand Tyson Foods and a former McDonald’s CEO were among those pouring $150 million in venture capital into the plant-based meat company Beyond Meat. Meanwhile, Cargill, the world’s largest source of beef products, sold off its remaining cattle feed lots in 2017 and plans to reinvest the capital in “plant-based protein, fish and insects,” according to Reuters. (Welcome to the future of food.)

In related news, old-school brand Campbell Soup Company dropped out of the powerful Grocery Manufacturers Association in October and joined the upstart Plant Based Food Association. (The trade group formed in 2016 to lobby Congress for policies putting plant-based companies on par with animal-based industries.)

With all this activity in the vegan food world, it’s not surprising that last year USA Today named veggie burgers “America’s most exciting new burgers.”

What is surprising is that students at UC Berkeley can learn how to make vegan meat in an on-campus, plant-based meat lab. The state-of-the-art facility opened in 2017 to go along with a plant-based meat course first offered in 2016.

So here at the start of a new year, what can we expect to see happen?


According to trend forecasters, 2018 will feature loads of new plant-based eats. But after 2017’s wild upward trajectory for veg food and given last year’s headlines (both vegan and not), almost anything seems possible.

Maybe this year actor Nick Offerman will go raw vegan? Or Cargill will sell its slaughterhouses and convert to 100 percent plant-based meat? Or President Trump will tweet: “White House serves most tremendous, amazing #MeatlessMonday! Very nice!”?

As we head into the uncharted waters of 2018, it’s comforting to know the food world is changing, one hummus toast at a time.

Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at:


Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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