There is a multi-billion dollar race to replace eggs


Or maybe you are just a vegetarian. Whatever the case may be, the solution to all these problems is simply to make "eggs" from plants.

The market for these egg substitutes, which was once a full-fledged category and aimed primarily at bakers and institutional vegans, is officially exploding. Just browse the aisles of the recent Natural Products Expo to spot fake egg whites in snacks of all kinds, or search the grocery store for a small selection of eggs made from unrelated ingredients. the chicken.

But spilling real eggs will not be easy. Egg whites (the real ones) have long been the protein that people refuse to happen because it is considered irreplaceable. Egg whites are the most effective source of protein and the least allergenic compared to competitors such as whey, soy and pea. In addition, food manufacturers use eggs because they add natural proteins that are tasteless and highly soluble.

Despite cholesterol, pollution and unfortunate chickens, how do you replace something with everything that happens?

VeganEgg was introduced in 2015 by Follow Your Heart. This powdered egg substitute was originally formulated with seaweed, but it was eventually replaced with soy powder. CEO Bob Goldberg said Follow Your Heart was hoping to have a more convenient and liquid version on the shelves by the end of the year. According to Nielsen, his product, used in Gardein frozen foods and in some restaurants, is No. 1 vendor of Whole Foods. Spero is another competitor: it's a young bay company that makes liquid eggs from pumpkin seed protein.

However, the main player in the non-egg sector is Just Inc., a $ 1 billion company previously known as Hampton Creek. The company launched its own liquid egg substitute at the end of last year, consisting mainly of mung bean derived proteins. The company said it sold the equivalent of 3 million chicken eggs in the United States alone, but much remains to be done: the US Department of Agriculture says the Total egg production in the United States exceeded 8.5 billion in February.

CEO Josh Tetrick said the company would go public "at some point" and has signed partnership agreements with large chicken egg suppliers that will manufacture and distribute Just Egg. Businesses, he said, will build factories separate from those where they process real eggs. Tetrick has announced plans to expand to Europe later this year and possibly to Asia.

Nielsen's data shows that traditional eggs still represent $ 7 billion. At present, the market for egg substitutes is largely limited to those used as components of cooking, especially cooking. Until a user-friendly alternative is invented – a plant-based egg substitute that can be quickly used to make scrambled "eggs" or an "egg" sandwich, by For example, the egg market should not suffer.

Unsurprisingly, many consumers in this sector consider the true north as a popular alternative to real eggs. But for now, says Michele Simon, Executive Director of the Plant Based Foods Association, the food service is the key to real change.

"There are ways to discreetly replace eggs in the food supply," said Simon, whose group has grown from 22 to 140 members since its inception three years ago. "Most people do not care as long as their cake is inflatable, you can change an ingredient and it will be virtually invisible to consumers."

Clara Foods does just that. The San Francisco startup recently closed a $ 20 million B series with Ingredion, a major ingredients provider, as a strategic partner. As part of the IndieBio Synthetic Biology Accelerator, Clara is entering the market with what it calls "the most soluble protein in the world". Arturo Elizondo, CEO and co-founder, describes the process: "We use DNA that codes for certain proteins, then yeast (like beer or wine)." Our yeast is a protein factory. DNA and the churn, the protein. "

The company has managed to recreate three different egg proteins (out of the 80 that are found in a chicken egg) and plans to launch the product early next year with its first : a tasteless egg protein that can be used in beverages and foods, and an egg protein that foams them, especially useful in baked goods. Clara Foods hopes to convert the manufacturers to its egg white protein version, but Elizondo acknowledges that this is only half the battle.

"The consumer's flavor is the most difficult piece, it's the attachment to an animal," he said. "The fact that it does not come from a chicken will alienate a lot of people." According to Elizondo, the success of companies in the beef sector, where herbal products that look and taste like meat is gaining ground, gives him hope.

But changing consumer habits takes time. Egg Beaters, the first liquid egg brand on the market with 27.3% market share, said that the entire sector was about to rotate. "The world has changed – the eggs have been considered a naughty – not good, with a lot of cholesterol – that's how eggs were created," said Bob Nolan, senior vice president of science. demand from Conagra Brands, its parent company. "But over the past 10 years, it's no longer a nasty but celebrated."

In addition to launching a whole-egg egg-beater version this summer, Conagra is developing a liquid-based herbal egg that will be marketed under its brand Earth Balance.

"It's for consumers to want more choice and to get other forms of protein," said Darren Seifer, executive director of NPD Group's market research company. . "Eighty-six percent of the people who use these [plant-based] the products also eat meat. They are not vegetarians or vegans. It's about giving consumers the choice. "

Beyond the critical factor, however, there is an additional hurdle for egg substitutes. Many of the natural components of the product are not great lovers of processed foods. By definition, fake eggs are processed foods.

"Consumers want new, healthy foods," said Peter Rahal, co-founder of protein bar manufacturer Rxbar, sold to Kellogg in 2017 for $ 600 million. "Often the ingredients are not healthy or clean.There is a tension between the science of food and consumers who want a healthy, family and local diet."

This article was written by Larissa Zimberoff, a Washington Post reporter.

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