Our top 21 moments of 2021

GFI’s donor family has fueled a flourishing alternative protein ecosystem. Check out our top 21 of 2021.

2021: a landmark year

It was a landmark year for GFI and the world of alternative proteins. With the New Year just around the corner, we thought we’d take a moment to offer a sample of some of the good food goodness that our donor family helped bring to the table this year.

Each of our teams in the Asia Pacific, Brazil, Europe, India, Israel, and the U.S. could serve up a phenomenal top 21 of their own, but we’ve done our best to gather the top 21 noteworthy (and bite-sized) moments from GFI around the world.

21. GFI turned five.

In February, GFI turned five. Also in February, we launched one of our biggest projects to date: a new brand and alongside it, a new website. The site is an encyclopedic one-stop shop for anyone (scientists, students, policymakers, NGOs, investors, entrepreneurs, and industry players) seeking to learn more about alternative proteins. Each affiliate celebrated the milestone year by refreshing their own websites as well: GFI India, GFI Israel, GFI Brazil, GFI Europe, GFI APAC. Even our partner organization in China, GFIC, launched their new website.

20. GFI experts published and produced catalytic articles and resources.

GFI’s team of experts released a production volume forecasting model for each of the industry’s three pillars, produced a series of concept notes designed to illuminate high impact, neglected areas of research, and made available a refreshed ATLAS database, an open-access tool scientists can use to prioritize species for further research. Among the peer-reviewed papers published this year was one from GFI Senior Scientist Claire Bomkamp, Ph.D. who presented a comprehensive review of scaffolding technologies for cultivated meat in one of the most influential scientific journals in the world. Plus, GFI’s Vice President for science & technology Liz Specht, Ph.D., published an article on the emergence of fermentation-derived meat as a third pillar of the alternative protein industry in Food Technology Magazine, the monthly magazine of the Institute of Food Technologists, the world’s largest professional association for food scientists.

19. Our insights expanded globally.

GFI’s open access resources and insights answer industry questions and shed light on important and emerging trends. The GFI Consultancy, a mission aligned partner in China, presented their report on plant-based meat innovations in mainland China. GFI APAC launched their plant-based meat manufacturing database, which is a directory of ingredient and equipment suppliers, pilot plants, consultants, and other critical B2B partners. GFI Israel launched their inaugural Israel State of Alternative Protein Innovation Report which is creating a platform for collaboration between industry and scientists and growing the talent pipeline.

18. GFI India empowered innovators and entrepreneurs to develop solutions that will accelerate the alt protein industry.

The India Smart Protein Innovation Challenge attracted 743 registrants from academia and industry spanning 116 cities, 25 states, and 590 colleges across India. The challenge lays the foundation for academic researchers and early stage entrepreneurs to take a deep dive into the science and business of alternative proteins and present solutions to alt proteins’ most pressing problems. Be sure to check back in Feb 2022 to see what solutions participants proposed and who won!

17. Our groundbreaking Advancing Solutions for Alternative Proteins (ASAP) project expanded to Europe.

The project, which maps out the most urgent and important opportunities across the sector, has become instrumental in directing resources and talent to create the highest impact solutions for scaling taste and cost-competitive alternative proteins. This year, GFI Europe launched their overview of the bottlenecks and opportunities across the region after a deep dive engagement with industry partners.

16. GFI’s Corporate Engagement team ensured innovators and entrepreneurs had a seat at the good food table.

So far this year, 810 new innovators and entrepreneurs have joined the GFIdeas group (bringing the total to 2,310). Our team hosts monthly “business of alt proteins” webinars and this year hosted the inaugural GFIdeas networking mixer in San Francisco. The team also organized the GFI pitch slam, which had 102 applicants from 30 countries – 12 startups pitched live at this year’s Good Food Conference.

15. CNN, Time, and Sam Harris spread the word about alt proteins.

Getting the word out about the powerful solutions that alt proteins offer has never been more urgent. Some of our favorites from the U.S. this year include an op-ed published on CNN.com arguing that the climate community should go all-in on government policy to support alternative proteins (this was shared at least four times with CNN’s 54.9M Twitter followers), TIME’s climate-focused double-issue including an 8-page spread on cultivated meat in the “climate is everything” section, and Sam Harris’s “Making Sense” podcast. Harris was so convinced of the importance of alt proteins that he removed the paywall, made the podcast a PSA, and added GFI to his list of charities receiving support from the Waking Up Foundation.

14. Our university engagement program, the Alt Protein Project, added six groups (but had 10x impact).

This past academic year, students at 16 universities around the world helped launch nine alt protein courses, hosted 78 events that reached thousands of attendees, and influenced or supported 17 alt protein research projects. These students represent the next generation of alt protein innovators and a massive force for a good food future.

13. GFI Europe led the charge against unprecedented restrictions on plant-based dairy labels – and won!

Our GFI Europe team worked with a wide range of partners to take these plans off the table, ensuring engagement with each of the 27 EU teams involved in the negotiations, as well as spearheading a joint letter bringing together 21 NGOs to call for rejection of the proposal. 

12. Alternative proteins are earning their place as a climate solution, and a shout-out from Bill Gates.

GFI continued to make the case that alt proteins should be vigorously supported in climate policy. We’re celebrating two big wins here: 1) with GFI’s input Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy highlighted alt proteins as a solution to the climate crisis in their Federal Climate Policy Playbook released in February. After its release, Gates publicly applauded GFI for championing “concrete, practical solutions that give consumers choices while limiting emissions.” 2) GFI also co-wrote a policy brief (in collaboration with Climate Advisors and the ClimateWorks Foundation) arguing that alternative protein innovation is crucial to meeting Paris Agreement obligations.

11. The 2021 Good Food Conference was the virtual place-to-be.

More than 1,500 alt protein innovators and experts (from 67 countries) met virtually to address the biggest white space opportunities in the sector. U.S. House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro, the leading alt protein champion in Congress, kicked off the conference by sharing what she sees as the biggest white space area for policymakers to address:

“I have continued to fight for alternative protein research to be categorized as “climate science” – after all, we cannot solve the climate crisis without addressing the global GHG generated by industrial animal agriculture.”

U.S. House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro

You can see her remarks and all of the sessions on our YouTube page .

10. We continued our quest for the “whole-y grail”.

GFI’s research grant program infused $5 million (thanks to a group of visionary donors!) into 21 projects across eight countries that will provide open-access, foundational research for creating whole yummy cuts of plant-based and cultivated meat and seafood. Whole-cut products account for at least 60% of beef sales, which truly makes finding their alternatives the “whole-y grail.”

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9. Israel elevates alt proteins as a solution for climate change.

Ahead of his first meeting with President Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett asked his Minister of Environmental Protection to organize an urgent briefing with leading experts of Israeli technological solutions for climate change. The Minister of Environmental Protection (pictured on the right) with GFI Israel Managing Director Nir Goldstein (pictured on the left) requested that GFI present on the environmental impact of traditional protein production, alternative protein technologies and their climate advantages, Israel’s leadership in research and innovation, and recommendations for USA-Israel actions. The PM was very engaged and even asked his team to print our presentation to share with President Biden!

8. GFI India continues to be at the center of alt protein progress in the region.

GFI India hosted more than 1,100 attendees from 10 countries at its three-day virtual Smart Protein Summit. The event pushed forward urgent action across science, business, and policy stakeholders and decision-makers within the India alternative protein, or “smart protein,” sector. The Summit earned coverage from 25 regional publications and 80 international publications, most notably by The Financial Express and The Economic Times.

7. GFI Brazil harnesses the power of plants in the Amazon through their Biomes project.

The project funds research aimed at developing the alt protein market by utilizing products native to the Amazon and Cerrado biomes. The research also identifies income opportunities for local communities and promotes the preservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources (a win/win/win scenario that also allows GFI Brazil to strategically connect alt proteins with bioeconomy policies). In an area of the world where a new species of fauna and flora is discovered every three days, the opportunities for innovation in Brazil abound.

6. GFI Brazil continued to be the driving force behind Brazil’s cultivated meat ecosystem.

GFI Brazil has been hard at work connecting renowned scientists with relevant agencies, and innovators with industry partners. This year, the Brazil team celebrated two major victories when the world’s first and fifth largest meat companies (the two largest meat companies in Brazil) announced major investments (one was a record-breaking $100 million) in cultivated meat.

5. We released the world’s first Life Cycle Assessment and Techno-Economic Assessment for cultivated meat that included industry and government participants.

More than 15 companies and one government scientific body participated in these assessments. The studies indicate that cultivated meat can have massive environmental benefits and, with government support (GFI’s global priority number one!), can be cost-competitive with some conventional meats by 2030. These studies also spurred some healthy conversation over the future of cultivated meat, including this perspective (on rational optimism) by GFI Lead Scientist Elliot Swartz, Ph.D.

4. For the first time in 75 years, the UK conducted a wide-ranging food system review – and GFI Europe celebrated a big win.

The GFI Europe team (the only organization in the UK policy landscape focused on alternative proteins) pulled out all the stops to engage the National Food Systems (NSF) team leading the review. In their final recommendations, the NSF recommended the government invest £125 million total to support alternative protein innovation and research.

3. Alternative proteins took the global stage.

Our number three milestone comes in three parts as GFI teams around the world sought to put alt proteins on the global policy, regulatory, and NGO menus.

  • GFI led Action Track #2 for the UN Food Systems Summit, which gave us the opportunity to socialize alt proteins and build relationships with leading food and environment groups. In remarks at the September Summit, Singapore Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu argued that alternative proteins are an important tool for addressing food security
  • After receiving official observer status in February, GFI teams in Brazil and the U.S. launched into high gear to shape the Codex Alimentarius (“Food Code”) regulation of alternative proteins. Codex is a regulatory body of more than 185 countries that recommends standards for food safety and fair trade, especially for smaller and less developed countries. We’re excited to see the impact GFI will continue to make here going into 2022.
  • GFI attended the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. Members of GFI Europe, as well as GFI Israel Managing Director Nir Goldstein and GFI Founder and CEO Bruce Friedrich met with more than 50 representatives of governments, NGOs, and industry to raise awareness about the potential of alt proteins to tackle the climate crisis. GFI also co-hosted a high impact event alongside ClimateWorks Foundation, Climate Advisers, and the Atlantic Council, and attended the launch dinner of Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate, which was hosted by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and UAE Climate Minister Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri. And, thanks to a supporter of GFI, we were also able to place these “Change Meat” billboards (right) around Glasgow.
Billboard that reads "serious about 1. 5 celsius? Change meat"

2. GFI saw progress on Capitol Hill.

GFI cultivated a range of champions in the House and Senate and a significant coalition of NGOs, trade groups, and companies to support our call for open access research into plant-based and cultivated meat. Earlier this year, 15 House members and 3 Senators asked John Kerry, Presidential Envoy for Climate, to put alternative proteins onto the global stage as a key climate solution and a month later U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro called out alternative proteins as an agricultural research priority. In August, House Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern, House Education Committee Chair Julia Brownley, and 44 other members of Congress called on the House Agriculture Committee to include $200 million in funding for alternative protein research in the budget reconciliation bill. GFI also sent letters to the relevant House and Senate committees that oversee budgets for the National Science Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture, asking Congress to direct the agencies to spend $50m each researching alternative proteins. We collected more than 60 co-signers, from Unilever and Kraft Heinz to the American Mushroom Institute and the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council to Greenpeace and Consumer Reports.

1. We celebrated a milestone win for public investment in alternative proteins.

The USDA awarded Tufts University $10 million over five years to establish a flagship American cultivated protein research center of excellence. This represents the first-ever U.S. government-funded cultivated protein research center of excellence, the USDA’s first significant investment in cultivated meat, and the U.S. government’s largest to date. Fun fact(s): The Principal Investigator and one of the lead investigators on the USDA grant are both GFI research grantees and were introduced to each other by GFI.

Join us for the next year of progress.

When GFI launched nearly six years ago, there was no alternative protein ecosystem: there had been no publicly funded alt protein science in years, there was little happening in the academic community, there were few venture investors focused on alt proteins, and no major meat corporations invested in the space. 

Today, because of donor support, we’ve created a global alternative protein community. In the U.S., India, Israel, Brazil, Asia Pacific, and Europe, we have inspired policymakers, scientists, corporate leaders, investors, startups, students, and changemakers to embrace alternative proteins as a game-changing solution for a more sustainable, healthy, and just global meat supply. 

Our momentum demonstrates the growing embrace of alternative proteins as a new way to feed the world, and our donors fuel our progress. Together, we are reimagining protein that is better for our planet and all who call it home.

We invite you to join us.

Scene depicting alt protein landscape

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Josh richards


Josh Richards works to identify, solicit, and steward grants in support of GFI’s mission. Areas of expertise: writing, grants management, university research administration, field organizing, animal agriculture

Susan halteman


Susan Halteman is GFI’s Senior Vice President of Development. Areas of expertise: leadership, nonprofits, fundraising, strategy, and donor engagement