Food: After meat and milk substitutes, egg alternatives are now booming – market researchers see potential worth billions
Dusseldorf Easter time is egg time. But eggs are also in demand for the rest of the year: 19.7 billion chicken eggs were consumed in Germany in 2021, according to the Federal Statistical Office. That’s 239 eggs per head.
Animal welfare is and will remain a problem even after the ban on cage farming and the killing of male day-old chicks. It is true that 20 percent of the laying hens are now kept outdoors and twelve percent are kept organically. However, they carry germs from outside into the stalls, which means that the dose of medication increases and life expectancy decreases.
A study by the University of Copenhagen shows that 85 percent of all laying hens suffer from broken sternums, regardless of how they are kept. The reason for this is high-performance breeding for as many large eggs as possible.
After the hype surrounding meat and milk substitutes, more and more suppliers are now entering the market with egg alternatives. A study by the consultancy BCG and Blue Horizon shows that the ecological footprint of a conventional egg is three times larger than that of an egg substitute made from mung beans. Vegan alternatives such as beaten egg whites made from aquafaba (chickpea water) have been around for a long time.
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Eight million tons of plant-based egg substitutes by 2035
According to BCG, plant-based egg substitutes will reach eight million tons by 2035. That’s more than forecast for plant-based cheese (three million tons) or beef substitutes (six million tons).
Market researcher Future Market Insights estimates global sales of plant-based egg alternatives at $1.5 billion in 2026. The first start-ups are researching nature-identical egg white protein, which is cultivated using precision fermentation.
The world’s largest supplier of vegan egg alternatives is the US brand Just Egg. The Californians offer liquid substitutes for scrambled eggs in plastic bottles or frozen as a square omelette. This can be heated in the toaster. The most important component of the imitation egg is the mung bean.
So far, Just Egg manufacturer Eat Just has replaced more than 250 million eggs. Just Egg is not yet on the market in the EU. After around two years, the EU Commission recently approved mung bean protein as a “novel food”.
“We are planning to launch Just Egg in Europe later this year,” said Matt Riley, global sales manager at Eat Just, the Handelsblatt. Poultry specialist PHW (“Wiesenhof”) has secured the distribution rights in Germany and Europe. Eat Just also received the world’s first approval for cell culture meat in Singapore in 2020.
Proteins from broad beans and mung beans
Industry experts estimate that more than 65 manufacturers worldwide are working on egg alternatives. The Nestlé group presented its plant-based veggie in the fall, the viscous vegan egg substitute contains soy protein. A number of start-ups are also developing egg imitations.
This includes Perfeggt from Berlin, which uses broad beans, for example. “It’s time to completely rethink the egg – without chicken, but with selected plant proteins and innovative technology,” says Tanja Bogumil, CEO of Perfeggt. The market potential for alternative eggs is still completely untapped.
“We are working intensively on combining the right vegetable proteins and fats in order to recreate the extremely complex multifunctional properties of the ice cream and its special aroma,” says co-founder Bernd Becker, who has been researching and developing vegan meat for more than 25 years -Primus Rügenwalder Mühle managed. The aim is to replace all uses of chicken eggs, whether frying, baking or binding.
The market launch of the first Perfeggt product in the catering trade is planned shortly. Unlike Just Egg, no EU approval as a “novel food” is required for the ingredients. That goes for most egg alternatives.
So far, Perfeggt has raised 3.5 million euros in capital – from prominent founders such as Gorillas, Just Spices, MyMuesli and the entrepreneurs Lea-Sophie Cramer and Verena Pausder.
Complex ingredients difficult to imitate
The Munich start-up Greenforce launched its vegan liquid scrambled eggs shortly before Easter – “after more than 300 attempts and recipe adjustments”. The production of egg substitutes is considered complex. A chicken egg contains more than 100 flavors and 40 proteins. The basis are field beans from Germany. A bottle equivalent to six eggs costs 3.99 euros in the refrigerated section. For the same price there is powder for ten eggs to mix yourself.
Egg alternatives also awaken the entrepreneurial spirit of former corporate managers. Four former Lidl managers want to launch a liquid whole egg alternative as the first product of their vegan brand The VGN in April. The imitation egg also contains broad bean proteins. Ex-Coca-Cola manager Thomas Starz also relies on vegan liquid egg with Plant-B. In April, the egg substitute made from lupines will be on the market.
Manufacturers are also working on alternatives for boiled eggs. The Swiss retail chain Migros has been selling an imitation with soy protein since November. Similar imitations already exist in Singapore and in the USA with Wundereggs made from nuts. The listed vegan specialist Veganz plans to launch hard-boiled plant-based eggs this year. The pack of four from Migros costs 4.40 francs. That’s the equivalent of 1.08 euros per egg – a price that German egg farmers can only dream of.
Egg prices in this country have recently risen significantly. In 2021, ten barn eggs in the shop cost 1.55 euros after 1.36 euros a year earlier, Marktinfo Eier & poultry determined. Since then, however, the costs have risen sharply – for example for energy and feed as well as sex determination in the egg. This has been mandatory for hatcheries in this country since January to prevent the mass killing of uneconomical male chicks.
>>> Read here: The cockfight: “German farmers make a loss with every egg”
However, the reviews of Migros’ hard-boiled egg imitation were mixed. A number of consumers called the product “inedible” on the Migipedia rating platform.
The protein from Onego Bio should not have such taste problems. The Finnish start-up has developed a nature-identical egg white protein. It is made by precision fermentation using the filamentous sac fungus Trichoderma reesei.
The gene for the egg white protein ovalbumin is inserted into the fungus, which then produces protein. “Consumers have become much more open to products that are made without animals,” says founder Maija Itkonen.
At the end of February, Onego Bio raised ten million euros in capital, for example from British investor Jim Mellon: “The technology has the potential to produce ovalbumin on an industrial scale and at a price that is competitive with conventional egg production.” environment and animal welfare.
In the USA, after seven years of research, the start-up Every has also developed nature-identical egg white through fermentation. A posh baker in San Francisco will soon be making macarons with it.
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