Plant-based diets drive new growth in egg replacers

9 May 2019

Egg replacers traditionally have been used to mitigate the high cost of eggs in food formulations, but a new generation of egg alternatives has emerged to meet demand for animal-free and plant-based ingredients.

Major manufacturers have started to show an interest in egg replacement ingredients as way to make products that appeal to vegans and flexitarians, rather than necessarily as a way to save money – or even to make allergen-free claims.

Plant-based diets drive new growth in egg replacers
Consumers are becoming more open to the idea of egg alternatives

Plant-based egg replacers previously have been seen as temporary switches in times of egg shortages – General Mills tackled 2015’s egg shortage and record-high prices by using powdered egg replacers, for instance – and industry often has resisted using such ingredients on a permanent basis because of issues with their taste, texture and functionality in finished products when compared with real eggs. But new ingredients and technologies have expanded their potential – and both industry and consumers are taking notice.

Global food ingredients giant Ingredion, for example, recently led a series B financing round for US-based Clara Foods, a company that makes chicken-free egg proteins via fermentation. The egg proteins are identical to those from hens’ eggs, but involve no animal agriculture.

It remains to be seen whether vegans will accept actual egg protein in their diets but – as with many alternatives to animal protein – the target consumer base is much broader. Globally, two-thirds of shoppers say they are eating more plant-based foods and beverages, according to recent research from DuPont Nutrition & Health, meaning that vegan (and plant-based) foods increasingly appeal to mainstream consumers.

For food manufacturers looking for egg replacers that are allergen-free and plant-based, the range of ingredients available to them continues to grow. Earlier this year, for example, Renmatix signed a distribution agreement with The Ingredient House for its egg replacement ingredient, made from plant materials and chemical-free agricultural feedstock. The company estimates that the ingredient could help bakeries save 25% to 50% on their annual cost of eggs. And when UK-based Ulrick & Short recently introduced a vegan ingredient for egg replacement in baked goods, it cited growing demand for vegan foods as an opportunity for manufacturers to discover new ingredients and textures – or to risk being left behind.

Meanwhile, egg replacers have become more acceptable to consumers as companies have started supplying vegan alternatives that they can use at home, such as JUST Egg in the United States. And social media has raised the profile of simple ingredients like aquafaba, the liquid drained from canned chickpeas, which has excellent foaming properties.

Demand for further innovation in animal-free egg alternatives looks set to increase, especially given that these ingredients tap into so many current trends, including flexitarian and plant-based eating, allergen-free and cruelty-free foods.