From politics and sports to science, technology and pop culture, 2016 was truly a year for the record books. But no where did it have a greater impact than in the exploding world of meat, dairy and egg innovation, where a group of bold and visionary entrepreneurs, chefs, and scientists sparked a revolution to make animal protein better.
From the world's first cultured meatball to the launch of realistic plant-based sushi, here's a look at all the amazing innovations and happenings in 2016, and what we can look forward to in the New Year.
1. Startup City
A whole host of new startups debuted or unveiled their game-changing products this year, including Memphis Meats' cultured meatball, New Wave Foods' plant-based shrimp and Geltor's animal-free gelatin.
2. A Burger Revolution
Two plant-based "bleeding" burgers - the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger - debuted to major press and critical praise, while Rephyll, another plant-based"raw" burger, took home a top innovation award in Canada.
3. Plant Butchers = Unstoppable
Plant Butchers continued their ascent to the mainstream, with shops like The Herbivorous Butcher and The Butcher's Son opening their doors to long lines and hordes of media gawkers. The success of Monk's Meats and Atlas Meat-Free Deli has propelled these shops to open their first brick-and-mortar locations in 2017, while UK-based Sgaia Foods launched the UK's first catering service specializing in premium plant meats.
4. Driving Cultured Meat Forward
Pioneering non-profit New Harvest saw incredible growth and successes in 2016, from staging the world's first conference on cellular agriculture in July to opening their very first lab for cultured meat!
5. Where No Plant Meats Have Gone Before
A visiting scientist with the Mars Research Station was so impressed with The Herbivorous Butcher's plant meats, he asked them to supply meals for a 2017 Mars desert simulation, with the possibility of one day taking these products into space!
6. Fake Meat Goes Viral
Australia's Alt Meats decided to prove the worth of their products by going undercover to feed some unsuspecting carnivores plant-based kebabs. The Aussies' reactions were priceless, and it quickly went viral!
7. Big Mac Daddy
In Canada, a vegan Big Mac beat out McDonald's in a blind taste test, while another Canadian outfit serving veg Big Mac's has proven so popular, it has inspired Canada's first plant-only fast food eatery, opening in early '17.
8. Better Seafood Makes a Splash
Sustainable, plant-based seafood got a big boost with the launch of Tomato Sushi in 14 Fresh & Co. eateries throughout New York City.
9. Closer to Reality
In June, the National Academies of Science convened an unprecedented meeting to update government regulations on biotechnology, including future products like cultured meat. New Harvest's Isha Datar attended to provide expert insight.
10. The Machine Turns
You know the future is bright when titans like Tyson Foods invest inplant-based meat, and then launch their own venture fund to explore new proteins. Similarly, venture capital fund Power Plant also broke ground in 2016 to back entrepreneurs building a better future with plants.
11. Cows Can Go Home
Animal-free dairy is set to have a huge year in 2017 thanks to Perfect Day Foods and Willow Cup, two startups formulating real, creamy, crave-able dairy from cultured milk protein or plants. Meanwhile,Ripple, a pea-based milk that debuted in Target this summer, is expanding to some 4,000 stores nationwide.
12. Eggs Get a Makeover
The Chilean-based NotCo released revolutionary mayo products made with A.I.-selected plant ingredients, and are looking to expand globally.
Though they saw some controversy this year, Hampton Creek's pea-based Just Mayo is still the critics' choice, with tasters from America's Test Kitchen giving it a big thumbs up.
13. Plant Meat Upstarts
Several smaller plant meat companies continued to sprout this year:Yeah Dawg! launched nationwide shipping for their popular plant-only hot dogs, St. Louis's Match Meats announced their beefy new Range-Free Burger, while Taft Foods became Eleni's Modern Mediterranean, which is expanding distribution of its award-winning gyros and schwarma.
14. A Good Food Revolution
2016 saw the launch of the first non-profit dedicated to promoting plant and culture-based animal products. The Good Food Institute, headed by Bruce Friedrich, seeks to expand the market for animal-free meat, dairy and eggs by launching new startups, lobbying for better food policies, and working with institutions and retailers to offer more plant-based options. In September, they received an incredible $1,000,000 grant to support their work.
15. The New Omnivore
If you have any doubt the future of food arrived in 2016, look no further than Vox.com writer Nick Pachelli. In December, he penned a passionate and poignant piece about his journey from plant-meat skeptic to believer, and how the food revolution begun by Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and others helped him realize the horrors of modern animal agriculture, and embrace new meat.
This was truly an amazing year that will be remembered as the one where animal protein innovation really took flight.
The stage is set for an incredible 2017, and I can't wait to see what's in store.
Happy New Year everyone!
The New Omnivore