Executive Director, The Good Food Institute
Key previous position: Vice president at PETA
Education: Grinnell; Johns Hopkins; Georgetown
Notable fact: Vegan
Bruce Friedrich is a happy warrior in the war on meat.
Once nicknamed “Bruce Poppins” by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals President Ingrid Newkirk, Friedrich takes the same optimistic attitude he displayed during his 13 years with the animal-rights organization to his current role as executive director of The Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that champions vegan and plant-based meat substitutes commonly known as alt-meats.
Friedrich found his passion for animals while working at a homeless shelter in the 1990s, when a friend gave him Andrew Linzey’s Christianity and the Rights of Animals, which turned him on to veganism.
“It changed my life,” Friedrich later said. In 1996, he started working with PETA to spread the gospel of veganism, eventually working his way up to vice president before leaving to cofound the GFI in 2015.
Now, his organization is leading the push for the wider acceptance and proliferation of alt-meats.
“We are still an extraordinarily nascent sector with a huge pie to grow,” he said at the Good Food Conference earlier this year.
You can taste the literal fruits of Friedrich’s labor at the nearest Burger King drive-through. The fast-food chain released the plant-based Impossible Whooper this summer to great success, as the demand for sustainably made goods rises across the country. The GFI released a report in July that found plant-based meat is growing five times faster than animal meats in the American retail space.
“Products like the Impossible Burger have supercharged plant-based-meat market growth by enticing more and more omnivores to embrace these products,” Friedrich told The Hagstrom Report in September. “By appealing to America’s meat-loving masses, Impossible Foods has helped propel plant-based meat into the mainstream, opening up and capturing entirely new consumers.”
While some lawmakers demand to know “where’s the beef” in alt-meat foods, Friedrich and the GFI will soldier on, designing a meatless future, one plate at a time.
—Kirk A. Bado