Opportunities hatch in egg replacer market

by Jeff Gelski
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KANSAS CITY — More than just rising egg prices may increase consumer awareness of ingredients used as egg replacers. Ethical concerns over animal welfare, people allergic to eggs and even a lawsuit concerning standard of identity also may come into play, said Carl Fritscher, principal innovation consultant for Mintel, in a Jan. 14 webinar.

Penford Food Ingredients, Centennial, Colo., sponsored the webinar. Food Business News, a brand owned by Kansas City-based Sosland Publishing, hosted it.

Feed prices for hens generally affect egg prices, but new California regulations soon may lead to cost increases, Mr. Fritscher said. A state law that went into effect this year requires shell eggs sold in California to come from chickens in production facilities that require at least 116 square inches per hen, larger than the industry norm of 67 square inches.

The California law ties into animal welfare. In the United States 74% of baby boomers say that buying something that makes them feel good about themselves is at least somewhat important to their purchase decision, Mr. Fritscher said.

To point out allergen concerns, Mr. Fritscher used data from Mintel GNPD on “suitable for” claims, which grew to more than 30% of global food and drink launches in 2013 from 21% in 2009. The most popular “suitable for” claims are vegetarian, low/no/reduced allergen and gluten-free.

Mr. Fritscher said egg replacers gained more attention after Unilever on Oct. 31, 2014, filed a lawsuit against San Francisco-based Hampton Creek, which sells Just Mayo, an egg-less vegetable spread. Unilever claimed Just Mayo does not meet the standard of identity for mayonnaise because it does not contain eggs. Unilever United States on Dec. 18 said it had withdrawn its lawsuit.

Concerns about the amount of cholesterol in eggs peaked about 15 years ago and have moved more to the back burner since then, Mr. Fritscher said.

“Most consumers don’t pay as much attention to it now as they used to,” he said.

Sarah Wood, Ph.D., research and development manager for Penford, also spoke in the webinar. Depending on the application, egg replacers may lead to cost reductions ranging from 20% to 95%, she said.

Eggs help to create emulsions in such applications as salad dressing and mayonnaise, Dr. Wood said. Modified food starch may be used in place of eggs to create emulsions. For moisture retention, starches, gums and fibers all may be used to replace eggs in such applications as bread, muffins, cakes and gluten-free items. Egg whites provide structure and volume, whipping capabilities, and adhesion and shine, Dr. Wood said. A blend of starches, gums and fibers may replace egg whites.

The most challenging applications are those that require a lot of volume and structure, like angel food cake and gluten-free bread.

“It is really tricky to get 100% replacement,” she said.

Reducing cost is possible in these applications, but achieving an egg-free, allergen status is difficult.

Recently Penford has received many requests for replacing egg whites, Dr. Wood said. Dried egg whites, f.o.b. plant, were selling for $10.75@$11.25 on Jan. 9, which compared to $8.20 a year ago. Grade A, large eggs were selling for 113.50@127.50c per dozen on Jan. 9, which compared to 104.50c a year ago.
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