It seems that every week in the world of vegan news is more exciting than the last, and this week is no exception. The holidays are in full swing at Hart House, the vegan fast-food chain founded by megastar Kevin Hart. In other restaurant news, several vegan eateries around the country are having a revival moment right before the new year.
What do celebrities Paul Wesley, Maggie Baird, and Moby have in common? They’re all rooting for the Plant Based Treaty, a blueprint for world governments in transitioning to a plant-based food system.
And as this year quickly comes to a close, we’ve already found something to look forward to for 2024: The Olympics in Paris will serve a lot more plant-based fare.
Read on for more.
Vegan restaurant news
Some restaurants might be closing for good but others are rising out of the ashes and redefining themselves right before the new year. Counter Culture, a vegan mainstay in Austin, TX, for example, just closed its food trailer to trade up for something better: a brick-and-mortar restaurant that will expand the reach of its Tex-Mex fare.
The Jackfruit Cafe
Also in Texas, this time in Tahoka, is a new iteration of The Jackfruit Cafe, an eatery that has transformed many times—from pop-up to food truck to brick-and-mortar—during its tenure in Los Angeles. Known for her role as Felicia in 1995 hit film Friday, owner Angela Means has expanded her concept into a 3,000-square-foot space in the West Texas town, where The Jackfruit Cafe operates as the only plant-based restaurant in a 120-mile radius.
In Northern California, Wholesome Bakery is having a resurrection moment of its own. The gluten-free vegan bakery closed its doors on November 30 in San Francisco as owner Mandy Harper prepares for bigger and better things. This includes a larger location and expanded menu, with classic baked goods keeping their spots alongside lunch, brunch, and beverages.
Nearby in Fresno, CA, vegan food truck Planet Vegan experienced a tragic fire in 2022 that left its co-owner with major burns. However, through community support and resilience, the Black-owned business is making a comeback as a vegan restaurant on January 6.
And one business is looking to make a comeback like the rest. Vegebitez in Guelph, Ontario is nearly halfway through its fundraising efforts to transform into Gemini Grubhaus, a vegan and gluten-free restaurant serving burgers, bowls, nachos, and more. Owner Heyli Dallaire secured a perfect location—complete with a patio—for the concept and is hoping to complete funding by January 31 to hang onto it.
Vegan food news
This week, Oatly celebrated a major win for vegan food and beverages. The Swedish company was involved in a lengthy legal dispute with Dairy UK Ltd—a dairy lobby group in the United Kingdom—regarding the use of the word “milk” in its advertising slogan “Post Milk Generation.” The high court ruled in favor of Oatly, allowing the company to continue using the term “milk” in its slogan.
This judgment is important for companies that produce vegan, or plant-based, products as it demonstrates that they can use words such as “milk” in their marketing without confusing consumers about whether their products are made from animal milk or plants.
There was also some sad news from the UK as vegan pioneer Heather Mills announced she is closing her legacy company V-Bites after 30 years. Despite significant personal investment and effort, Mills explained in a statement that a multitude of factors—which include mismanagement and Brexit—led to the decision.
“Sadly mine and my staff’s efforts have been thwarted by a demand that I stepped away from day-to-day management, in order to secure essential investment and a combination of corporate greed and poor management, the cost of living crisis, price rises in the global ingredients and utilities markets, and the current state of the manufacturing economy in Britain,” Mills said.
Stateside, if you’re still collecting the odds and ends for your holiday celebrations, there’s something new at Trader Joe’s that might just be the perfect way to enjoy Christmas morning.
The discount retailer has updated its Meatless Breakfast Sausage Patties to a fully vegan recipe, removing egg whites and transitioning from wheat gluten to soy protein. The new formula includes herbs and spices such as sage and fennel seed and uses fruit juice for coloring instead of caramel, omitting added sugar.
Nestlé’s also got a new recipe for Voie Gras, its plant-based foie gras alternative under its Garden Gourmet brand. Now available in Belgium, Spain, and The Netherlands, the re-released shelf-stable product—which features a miso paste, sea salt, and a soy base—aims to replicate the taste and texture of traditional foie gras.
“Garden Gourmet stands for food where taste feels good,” Marjolijn Niggebrugge, European Business Head of Plant-Based Meal Solutions at Nestlé, said in a statement.
“Voie Gras is our testament to offering great-tasting seasonal options that cater to the growing demand for plant-based alternatives, balancing taste with environmental and animal welfare concerns,” Niggebrugge said.
This move is part of Nestlé’s strategy to expand its plant-based offerings, which also includes new products such as plant-based tuna and Soya Chunks in Africa.
Vegan climate news
Nestlé’s Garden Gourmet brand will also be the reason behind more plant-based food at the upcoming Paris Olympics next year. Visitors can expect to enjoy dishes such as falafel quinoa salad and meat-free burgers (supplied by Garden Gourmet), as organizers plan for 60 percent of the food to be vegetarian, with 80 percent of produce sourced locally from France.
“It’s our collective duty to change habits and reduce our carbon footprint,” Tony Estanguet, Paris 2024 Olympics President, said in a statement. “Using public transport and sampling vegan food at the venue are key aspects of this.”
“The exceptional taste and preparation of these vegan dishes by skilled chefs will surely surprise many by their quality,” he said.
Approximately 13 million meals are anticipated to be served during the Games, starting on July 26, 2024.
In other climate news, this week, Camden became the fifth UK city council—following Oxfordshire County, Oxford City, Cambridge City and Exeter City Council—to commit to vegan catering to slash its carbon emissions. This change was inspired by local campaigners from the Plant-based Councils initiative, who explained how important it is to choose plant-based foods to help the environment and fight climate change.
“We’ve been continuously impressed by Camden’s climate leadership—they really understand the crucial role of our food systems in the climate crisis,” Jimmy Pierson, Director of nonprofit ProVeg UK, said in a statement.
“With animal agriculture responsible for 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, we are so encouraged to see local authorities like Camden taking action and supporting a shift towards more sustainable catering,” Pierson said.
Over in the Netherlands, a similar trend continues to grow as more corporate caterers are committing to increase plant-based options. Led by the Dutch animal rights group Wakker Dier, six major caterers, including Albron, Cirfood, and Compass Group, have pledged to boost their sales of plant proteins.
They aim to sell at least 50 percent plant proteins by 2025 and 60 percent by 2030, without raising total protein sales. This initiative aligns with 10 other Dutch caterers who had previously committed to the same goal.
Vegan celebrity news
These days, some major celebrities are getting into vegan food in fun ways. Funnyman Kevin Hart is celebrating the holidays with a special dairy-free shake at his Hart House fast-food chain in California.
“It’s sometimes hard to find affordable and tasty plant-based treats during the holidays,” Hart said in a statement. “But our Cocoa Mint Holiday Shake is out-of-this-world delicious and decadent while still being dairy-free and gluten-free.”
The seasonal vegan shake features Whipt coconut whipped topping, peppermint marshmallows, chocolate, and a gluten-free cookie from allergen-friendly company Partake. It’s available through December 31.
A group of celebrities—including actor Paul Wesley, musical artist Moby, and food justice advocate Maggie Baird (mother of stars Billie Eilish and Finneas)—voiced their support for Safe and Just, a report that debuted at the recent COP 28 in Dubai. This report, presented by the Plant Based Treaty, emphasizes the need for a global shift to a plant-based food system to combat climate change and other environmental crises.
“We need to address animal agriculture to stop the destruction of the Earth’s climate, ocean, and biosphere,” Wesley said in a statement. “Plant Based Treaty’s new report Just and Safe provides a blueprint for a transition to a sustainable plant-based food system.”
The report highlights how the current food system, particularly animal agriculture, is pushing planetary boundaries and calls for urgent action to transform food consumption patterns worldwide. It advocates for cities to adopt plant-based food strategies and proposes a vegan donut economics framework for achieving the Paris Agreement’s climate goals.
Tabitha Brown/Feed the Soul
And we’ve been rooting for Tabitha Brown for years as she shared her plant-based journey with the world. Now a bonafide celebrity, Brown recently added Emmy-award winner to her list of accolades, after winning a Children’s and Family Emmy for Outstanding Host of YouTube series Tab Time.