Our top 22 of 2022

GFI’s community of supporters sparked unprecedented innovation and growth for the alternative protein ecosystem in 2022—check out our highlights from the past year.
Top 22 of 2022 illustrated graphic

2022 was a monumental year

As a field catalyst and think tank, we helped accelerate alternative protein progress across science, policy, and the industry worldwide.

Our teams have been gearing up for exciting initiatives in 2023, but as we head toward the last days of the year, we want to take a moment to share all of the alternative protein goodness we brought to the table this year.

The gfi team gets some sunshine at our september retreat
The GFI team gets some sunshine at our September retreat

22. GFI Europe put the spotlight on alternative proteins at major industry events

The GFI Europe team was an influential presence at IFFA and Fish International, the world’s largest meat and seafood industry trade fairs. For many of the companies in attendance, these events were their first chance to learn about alternative proteins.

“GFI Europe’s experts inspired our attendees from the established food industries about the exciting potential of plant-based and cultivated meat, their talks and tours generating a lot of enthusiasm to accelerate the development and scale-up of these sectors.”

Johannes Schmid-Wiedersheim, Director of IFFA

21. Influenced by GFI Brazil, the Brazilian government invested in alternative proteins for the first time

GFI Brazil was invited to collaborate with the Brazilian government on two requests for proposals to fund alternative protein research and development—for the first time in the country’s history. Thanks to GFI Brazil’s years of working with the Brazilian government, the Brazilian Innovation Agency set a historic precedent of investing in alternative proteins, paving the way for more significant future investment.

20. GFI India convened the alternative protein leaders of the future at our Smart Protein Summit

In partnership with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, GFI India welcomed more than 580 participants over two days for 13 panel discussions and eight invite-only roundtable discussions across industry, policy, and science—including opening addresses from Siraj Hussain (Former Union Secretary of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries & Ministry of Agriculture) and Siraj Azmat Chaudhry (Past Chair of FICCI National Committee on Food Processing and Former Chairman of Cargill India).

19. GFI Israel grew momentum for alternative proteins among global changemakers

GFI Israel secured a place for alternative proteins on the global stage by spotlighting alternative proteins at several high-profile events. Thanks to GFI, Israel honored its 74th Independence Day with a party at the UN focused on the nation’s global leadership on alternative proteins. The day’s three speakers were Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Israeli UN ambassador Gilad Erdan, and GFI Israel CEO Nir Goldstein. Just months later, GFI Israel partnered with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs on an event joined by 60 global ambassadors that called for attendees to promote national alternative protein strategies in their home countries.

18. GFI APAC co-organized the first-ever scientific summit in the history of the renowned Singapore International Agri-Food Week

Joining forces with the Singapore Food Agency and Nanyang Technological University, GFI APAC launched the Global Agri-Food Scientific Symposium, an event spotlighting the latest innovations in supply chain resilience, urban food systems, sustainable proteins, and affordable nutrition. More than 500 scientists and innovators convened to discuss the state of global cultivated meat research and alternative protein science’s role in shaping Asia’s food future.

17. GFI prepared global regulators to enable cultivated meat and other alternative proteins to reach mass markets

Gfi vp of policy jessica almy introduces gfi to the full codex alimentarius commission
GFI VP of policy Jessica Almy introduces GFI to the full Codex Alimentarius Commission

In 2022, GFI brought expert insights to the table to impact how plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-derived proteins are regulated worldwide. 

  • In October, GFI APAC and the APAC Society for Cellular Agriculture joined more than 30 other industry leaders in announcing a first-of-its-kind memorandum of understanding aligning the region on the term “cultivated” as the preferred English-language descriptor for food products cultivated directly from animal cells. Signatories of this historic agreement include nearly every cultivated food startup in Asia Pacific, regional coalition groups, and major multinational companies Cargill and Thai Union. 
  • The Codex Alimentarius (“Food Code”) Commission is an international food standard-setting body now considering work on new standards for alternative proteins. As an official Codex observer, GFI recommended several steps that would promote consumer safety and fair trade and make it easier for alternative protein companies to do business around the world.

16. GFI thought leaders championed alternative proteins to global audiences

Throughout 2022, GFI’s insights were sought and featured in leading global and national media outlets, growing public support and political will for alternative proteins. Some of our favorites include: 

  • This article co-authored by GFI founder and president Bruce Friedrich in Foreign Policy, focused on the need for governments to support alternative proteins for climate mitigation and food security
  • This career feature in Nature Biotechnology by GFI Europe science and technology manager Seren Kell, published with the goal of getting new talent involved to strengthen the alternative protein ecosystem
  • This spotlight on GFI VP of science and technology Liz Specht, PhD, in Vox from a series honoring changemakers across disciplines and fields who are helping us achieve a better future

15. Following advocacy from GFI Europe, the UK government committed to prioritizing alternative protein research and innovation

GFI Europe formed strategic relationships to influence the UK’s National Food Strategy, resulting in the commitment that “the government will keep the UK at the front of this growing and innovative sector by supporting alternative protein research and innovation.” In September, another major victory followed when the UK government’s research council for biotechnology and biological sciences allocated £20m to alternative protein research and invited GFI Europe to co-lead a workshop about how to best direct the funds.

14. GFI’s global teams published authoritative reports, articles, and data-driven analyses

GFI’s open-access resources are used extensively across the sector to catalyze alternative protein research and advocate for public support. This year, GFI’s policy team published the State of Global Policy Report, a first-ever analysis of the global policy landscape for alternative proteins. Our SciTech team launched the Alternative Protein Literature Library, a one-of-a-kind resource containing all of the most relevant publications, patents, and theses in the alternative protein field. And our corporate engagement team released GFI’s annual suite of State of the Industry Reports, which include the most comprehensive global analyses of the alternative protein landscape that exist, providing a deep dive into investment and sales data, new technologies, and regulatory considerations.

13. GFI’s U.S. policy team won big in Louisiana and kept labels honest

Public investment seeds the future of alternative proteins, but unfair regulation can limit their ability to compete in the market. GFI is defending the rights of alternative protein producers to clearly, accurately, and compellingly label their products, and we celebrated a significant victory when Tofurky, represented by GFI and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, prevailed in a challenge to Louisiana’s label censorship law in federal court. The court found that Louisiana’s law, which prohibited the use of terms like “burger” and “beef” on plant-based food labels, was more extensive than necessary and that Tofurky presented “compelling evidence” that consumers are not confused by its labeling. The court declared Louisiana’s law unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds and enjoined the state from enforcing it—a win for all plant-based companies.

12. GFI Brazil’s Biomes Project developed new alternative protein ingredients from native plants

The Biomes Project is designed to meet urgent demand in the Brazilian plant-based market by supporting 19 research projects developing ingredients from native plants in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes. By creating a financial incentive to preserve the standing forest, the Biomes Project’s research gives the natural world a chance to thrive, helping to protect the livelihoods of local producers.

11. GFI’s research grant program unlocked significant follow-on funding from the private and public sectors

Kathleen chen and stephanie kawecki in dr. Rowat’s lab – when dr. Rowat was awarded a research grant from gfi, only one of her graduate students was interested in cultivated meat: now, more are getting involved and introducing other students to new research opportunities.
Students Kathleen Chen and Stephanie Kawecki conduct research in Dr. Amy Rowat’s program at UCLA

Researchers from a wide array of disciplines have been turning their attention toward opportunities in alternative proteins thanks to GFI’s research grant program, now in its fourth year.

Scientists and innovators who have been working to fill critical knowledge gaps are now finding follow-on funding for their research from both the private and public sectors. Three members of GFI’s inaugural grant program cohort received significant follow-on funding this year after earning their first-ever alternative protein research funding from GFI: biophysicist Dr. Amy Rowat received a five-year, $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to expand her cultivated meat research program, and entrepreneurs Beth Zotter and Dr. Amanda Stiles raised $3 million in investment for their plant-based bacon company—and pitched it on Shark Tank.

GFI awarded $3.8m in research grants to 21 projects across 13 countries in 2022, and our areas of focus this year included research to develop cost-competitive cell culture media, a key challenge illuminated by our techno-economic analysis for cultivated meat

10. GFI Israel partnered with the Israeli government to launch a Cultivated Meat Consortium

Following discussions with GFI Israel, the Israeli Innovation Authority granted a landmark $18 million to establish a Cultivated Meat Consortium, which includes 14 companies and ten academic labs. The Consortium is a cultivated meat innovation hub creating advanced, scalable technology for cultivated meat by facilitating the exchange of ideas between academia and industry. GFI Israel grantee Gaya Savion sparked the formal coordination of the project with Israel’s largest food manufacturer, Tnuva Group.

9. GFI launched first-of-its-kind sustainability guidelines to support the alternative protein industry

Sustainability reporting guidelines are a crucial tool for many industries, but none existed for alternative proteins—until this year. GFI and FAIRR created alternative protein-specific environmental, social, and governance (ESG) frameworks to supply investors and companies with tools to monitor, measure, and report on risks and opportunities in the alternative protein industry. By providing comparable ESG data for alternative and conventional protein products, the frameworks are designed to illuminate the benefits of alternative proteins, incentivizing companies to incorporate them into strategies to meet decarbonization targets. The frameworks received over 800 downloads in the first week after their launch, including by leading alternative protein and diversified food companies.

8. The White House signaled a surge ahead for alternative protein progress

Last year, GFI submitted input to the Office of Science and Technology Policy advocating for alternative proteins to be included in the U.S. National Strategy for Advanced Manufacturing, and we were thrilled to see that the strategy released this year contains two mentions of alternative proteins. This happened weeks after President Joe Biden signed an executive order marking his first significant action on alternative proteins. President Biden ordered the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prepare a report on food and agriculture innovation that includes alternative proteins as a focus area—a major signal for progress to come.

GFI convened an invitation-only event for select academic researchers and corporate innovators to inform the USDA’s report under President Biden’s executive order. We were delighted to have the principal authors of both the USDA report and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s implementation report in attendance. We are now preparing a written submission to USDA that reflects the perspectives shared at the event, which will serve as a resource for the Department as they develop their plan for using biotechnology and biomanufacturing to further societal goals.

7. GFI India’s flagship Smart Protein Innovation Challenge sparked new ideas and cultivated a pipeline of innovators

A total of 745 participants from 590 colleges, universities, and organizations across India joined the Challenge for intensive programming and mentorship on the business, science, and path to market for alternative proteins. By connecting hundreds of young leaders with potential partners and resources, GFI is inspiring breakthroughs across India. Some of the projects inspired by the Challenge include a shelf-stable plant-based egg and technology for using vegetable waste to create high-protein ingredients.

6. GFI Europe brought cultivated meat closer to market with the Cultivated Meat Innovation Challenge

One of the most significant technical challenges to commercializing cultivated meat is the price of cell culture media, and GFI Europe partnered with the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT Food) to tackle this obstacle with the Cultivated Meat Innovation Challenge. The Challenge incentivized solutions to drive down costs, and among the winners were an Israeli company developing technology that enables tobacco plants to produce growth factors and a Portuguese research organization assessing whether microalgae can grow ingredients for cultivating seafood.

5. GFI’s global student movement expanded to 36 universities worldwide

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GFI team members Amy Huang and Christina Aguila meet up with members of the Johns Hopkins Alt Protein Project

The Alt Protein Project is our global movement that empowers students to transform universities into engines for alternative protein education and research. With 36 chapters across 17 countries and five continents, the program is a nexus for academic efforts building the alternative protein ecosystem. The program welcomed 20 new student groups in 2022, including groups in Asia, Africa, and Australia.

4. The Israeli government declared alternative proteins a national research priority and matched GFI’s research funding four to one

Following years of relationship-building and advocacy by GFI Israel, the Israeli government ranked alternative proteins among their top five national priorities for research and development. The Israeli Ministry of Innovation, Science, and Technology plans to distribute over $52 million a year in research grants toward the selected areas and undertake a national foodtech policy plan, with GFI Israel’s Alternative Proteins National Policy Plan serving as the principal roadmap.

After extensive advocacy from GFI Israel to secure government matching of alternative protein research funding, the Israeli government agreed to partner with GFI Israel to launch an Alternative Protein Research Grant Program. The Israeli government matched GFI’s contribution for the $1.2m program almost four to one, and GFI Israel is seizing this chance to direct research funding to the most neglected and important areas in the field.

3. GFI helped public investment in alternative proteins reach new heights in the United States

Our U.S. policy team forms strategic relationships and advocates at the highest levels of government to secure public investment in alternative proteins, and we celebrated two major wins in 2022. In June, the U.S. House of Representatives increased alternative protein research at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service by $1 million, building on the $4.5 million baseline established in the last appropriations process. That same month, GFI and our lobbyists worked with California Assemblymember Ash Kalra to secure $5 million for alternative protein R&D at three University of California campuses, which is the largest amount a state legislature has ever set aside for this purpose.

2. Alternative proteins went from being a side dish to a main course at COP27—literally

Gfi delegates stop for a selfie on the cop floor
GFI delegates take a moment to bond on the COP27 floor

In November, GFI experts gathered in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt alongside world leaders, innovators, and problem-solvers to attend COP27. GFI co-hosted the first-ever Food Systems Pavilion and helped shape programming for many other pavilions and events, placing alternative proteins on the global stage and elevating the urgent need for governments to prioritize alternative proteins as a climate solution. Just one highlight from the many events we led: GFI APAC co-organized a historic, first-of-its-kind cultivated meat dinner for global leaders that was featured in media coverage around the world, including in The Washington Post, NPR, The Guardian, and CNN.

1. We celebrated a historic milestone for cultivated meat

In parallel with our advocacy for public investment in alternative protein research, GFI has been working toward regulatory approval for cultivated meat since our founding. In a defining moment for the future of our food system, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially gave the green light to a cultivated meat product for the very first time. UPSIDE Foods successfully completed FDA’s rigorous review for its cultivated chicken as part of the agency’s pre-market review process, laying the groundwork for cultivated products to be sold in the United States. GFI was featured in media coverage of this historic milestone in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, TIME, The Washington Post, NPR, and more.

People in a circle holding soil and seedlings in their cupped hands, top view

Think big with us in 2023

We are a global network of organizations focused on one vision: creating a world where alternative proteins are no longer alternative.

In Asia Pacific, Brazil, Europe, India, Israel, and the United States, we are identifying high-impact solutions and growing the entire alternative protein ecosystem, all powered by donor support.

We’re grateful to be recognized as a highly effective charity by Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) and Giving Green. Both are rigorous evaluations of our impact, strategy, leadership, and culture. As Vox noted, “If you want to donate to helping the climate as well as helping animals, here’s your two-for-one deal.”

Together, we are cultivating and connecting a global community of innovators who are advancing alternative proteins as a new way to feed the world—for the planet, people, and animals.

Author

Dara homer

Dara Homer SENIOR EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT AND DEVELOPMENT WRITER

Dara Homer delivers support and creative content to fuel the Development team. Areas of expertise: donor communications, leadership development, arts education