Anticipating egg alternative needs

by Jeff Gelski
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With egg prices still high, manufacturers must consider egg alternatives and their ramifications.

A wave of rising egg white prices has subsided, although prices are still high when compared to two years ago. What egg ingredient might surge in price next?

“There are so many variables that play into the commodity markets that it is difficult to predict what the market will do at any given time,” said Jon Stratford, sales and marketing manager for Natural Products, Inc., Grinnell, Iowa. “The recent rise in egg whites was driven largely by the sudden popularity of the egg-white breakfast sandwich. Did anyone predict this two years ago?

“In fact, this unpredictability is the very reason why there is a market for egg replacers, which are often made with lower cost and more stable priced raw materials. Formulators have a range of options for insulating their profits from such swings with cost-stabilizing projects, some of which are vegetable protein-based.”

Dried egg white prices, once under $5 a lb, shot above $15 a lb last August. On March 27 of this year the prices had dropped to $8.25@$8.45 a lb. Now companies may want to stay alert on prices for grade A large eggs. On March 27 they cost 163.50@178.50 delivered cents per dozen, which was up 11c from March 20 and up 22c from March 13.

Egg whites, which are especially useful in gluten-free applications, and whole eggs provide structure and function as well as whipping and adhesive benefits, said Sarah Wood, Ph.D., R.&D. manager for Penford Food Ingredients, Centennial, Colo. Egg yolks and whole eggs provide emulsification and moisture retention, she added in a March 2 presentation at the American Society of Baking’s BakingTech 2015 in Chicago.

A blend of starches, gums and fiber may be needed in egg replacement systems, Dr. Wood said. Formulators need to consider functionality, allergen issues, labeling and costs when choosing alternative ingredients. For example, soy and dairy, like eggs, have allergen issues.

Dr. Wood said Penford, a business now owned by Ingredion, Inc., is receiving many customer requests for clean/simple labels. Egg ingredients may qualify, but what about egg alternative ingredients?

“Most of our ingredients are non-G.M.O., so that part is a little bit easier,” she said.

Mr. Stratford said companies, when replacing egg ingredients, should have specific goals. The goals might be reducing costs, simplifying a label, improving product quality, eliminating another ingredient, making a claim or improving nutrition.

Companies also should identify what aspects of a product’s formula may impact the performance of an egg replacement ingredient.

“Different types of flours, fats, emulsifiers and sweeteners especially can have a large impact on how a replacement ingredient works in a batter or dough,” Mr. Stratford said. “Sometimes the answer we (the vendors) give will sound counter-intuitive, but it will be based on our experience working with our own ingredient.”

He said he urged companies to let the vendor help with egg replacement projects.

“Vendors recognize that specification sheets do not tell you everything you need to know about how to use a specialty ingredient such as an egg replacer,” he said. “Your application is unique, and basic usage guidelines for specialty ingredients may not work ‘out of the box.’ Certainly, your R.&D. team should not have to do ‘foundational research’ when trying to reduce a complex ingredient such as eggs.”

Document and pricing should be discussed up front.

“This will bring to light any potential issues related to allergens, certifications, manufacturing processes, etc.,” Mr. Stratford said. “There’s no point in having your team do any R.&D. work if the ingredient cannot be used in your facilities or is too expensive.”

Sharing the results of trials with the vendor is another idea.

“Even a quick picture taken with a cell phone and texted to the vendor can help us help you diagnose quality issues and eliminate many baking trials,” Mr. Stratford said.

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