Technological leaps, heated legal battles and major social efforts all contributed to 2013 being a big year in food. The Specialty Food News team has compiled its 10 most industry-shaking events, trends and movements of the past year.

Dominique Ansel’s Cronut spawned countless copycat hybrid desserts; the first lab-grown burger and plant-based egg were unveiled; crickets landed on restaurant menus; and labeling laws for genetically modified foods sparked a heated national debate. These are some of the picks for the ten most industry-shaking events, trends and movements of the past year compiled by the editors of Specialty Food News, the daily e-newsletter of the Specialty Food Association.

The 2013 Top 10 specialty food stories are:

Sustainable Meat Alternatives Step into the Future

The Year of Non-GMO

Gluten-free Standards Established

Two Lost Legends: The Deaths of Charlie Trotter and Marcella Hazan

Craft Distilleries Come Roaring Back

The Cronut That Launched a Thousand Hybrids

Waste Not, Feed and Power Many

Vegetables Take Over

California Cottage Food Act Passes

Next Protein Sources: Cricket and Pea Protein Powder


Environmentalists and animal activists won a victory this year as sustainable meat and animal product alternatives took a giant step into the future. The first lab-grown burger was unveiled in August to great fanfare, and while taste testers said it lacked the flavor of conventional beef, the demonstration proved that meat can be produced in a lab from a very small amount of animal stem cells. 

This year also saw the creation of the world’s first plant-based egg, Hampton Creek Foods’ Beyond Eggs. The product is made from 11 plants including sorghum, peas and beans. Beyond Eggs was used successfully for baking, and to make the company’s next product: Just Mayo, which was backed financially by technology giants as Bill Gates and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.

The GMO battle became a serious hot-button issue this year as several states and municipalities took up the cause for labeling genetically modified foods. While a GMO-labeling law failed to gain traction with voters in Washington state, legislation was passed in Connecticut and New Jersey over the summer requiring labels on genetically modified foods, pending other states’ participation. Members of the city council in Los Angeles have also proposed a measure that would prohibit the sale, growth and cultivation of genetically modified crops in the city.

The issue gained even more national attention as grocery giant Whole Foods announced that it would require all products in its U.S. and Canadian stores to be labeled to indicate whether they contain GMOs by 2018. On the flipside, national food companies have also started adding fuel to the fire by donating millions of dollars to defeat statewide GMO-labeling initiatives. With heavy hitters joining the cause, the issue is poised to reach a boiling point in coming years.

While gluten-free foods are readily available at most grocery stores, consumers can now rest assured that what they’re purchasing meets rigorous new Food and Drug Administration standards. The FDA tightened its reigns over voluntary gluten-free claims in August by further defining the term. The new rule requires that foods carrying the term contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten, a protein that occurs naturally in wheat, barley, rye and other select grains. The terms “no gluten,” “free of gluten,” and “without gluten” must also meet the FDA’s set definition.

Food manufacturers will have one year after the rule is published to bring their labels into compliance with the new requirements. The FDA hopes to make life easier for the nearly 3 million Americans who have celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive condition that can be effectively managed only by eating a gluten-free diet, and gluten intolerance.