Eggs are a challenging ingredient to replace in baked foods. Their wide range of functionalities makes it nearly impossible to find one ingredient that can do it all.
“Eggs are incredibly functional in baking, providing structure, texture, emulsification, color and flavor,” said Marissa Stubbs, ingredients account manager, bakery, Agropur.
It is common for bakers to assume that an egg replacer can recreate real eggs, said Kathy Sargent, strategic innovation director, Corbion. Overcoming that assumption allows bakers to focus on the specifics.
“There are so many functions that eggs can play in relation to taste, texture, quality, appearance and consistency, and egg replacers are really designed to be targeted to specific applications,” she explained.
Much of this is done through systems of ingredients working together to replicate the functionality that eggs bring to a specific product.
“When egg is removed from a bakery formulation, each of the relevant functionalities need to be replaced,” said Deborah Waters, enzymologist, Kerry Ingredients. “Kerry combines a range of ingredients to bring back these functionalities ranging from clean label declarations to more traditional egg replacement solutions. Gum acacia, enzymes, starches, proteins and emulsifiers all play various roles in egg replacement.”
The main protein in eggs, albumin, is especially challenging to replicate. It provides the structure necessary for high-sugar applications to sustain the weight of sugar and shortening.
“Sometimes customers want to replace eggs, but it’s just too difficult, so we often are asked to just reduce the amount of eggs,” said Linda Dunning, product manager, systems, DuPont Nutrition & Health.
In fact, Rob Thomas, account manager, Natural Products, Inc., said that if eggs are contributing to the overall volume of the structure, and take up more than 5% of the formula, he recommended an egg reduction rather than a complete replacement.
Not all applications are difficult to reformulate, however. Bread, cookies, pancakes and muffins all rely less on eggs than other products. Yeast-leavened products, in particular, don’t need eggs for rise, so replacing them isn’t as challenging.
“Breads are by far the easiest to work with when it comes to replacing eggs in bakery formulations because you can use enzyme systems in combination with other ingredients to create the shelf life, richness and moistness traditionally provided by eggs,” Ms. Sargent said.
Cakes, on the other hand, are some of the most difficult products to reformulate because they depend on eggs for so many different functions.
“Volume of the cake, the resilience and how it bounces back, the viscosity and emulsification of the batter — all of these things really bring a ton of tolerance to the process,” Ms. Sargent continued. “It’s also important to consider the desired level of moistness and color for the end application, as these are often indicators of shelf life.”
How a baker wants to reformulate also adds another layer to the complexity. Options will be limited if a baker is trying to avoid allergens or achieve a clean label.
“If they only want natural ingredients for a clean label then we’re further restricted in what we can use to replace the eggs,” Ms. Dunning said.
Why even try?
With eggs seeming a bit irreplaceable, it’s easy to wonder why anyone would want to replace them in baked foods at all. But for all their functionality, eggs don’t come without their challenges. The egg market can be volatile and storage an issue, and their allergen status can be problematic for some bakers. All of this may add to the price of the final product.
“Cost is a driving factor for many food manufacturers considering egg replacement options,” said Matt Gennrich, senior food technologist, R.&D. bakery applications, Cargill. “Liquid whole eggs, whites, yolks and powdered eggs have a history of price volatility affecting the cost of use in bakery products.”
Prices can bounce up and down based on supply. Think back to the avian flu that drove egg prices up in 2015. Bakers began looking into at least reducing their dependence on them to offset rising costs.
“Egg replacers can not only significantly lower bowl costs, but they also provide a much-needed hedge against spikes in the egg market, which inevitably happen,” said Al Orr, vice-president of sales and marketing, J&K Ingredients.
Not all applications are difficult to reformulate, however. Bread, cookies, pancakes and muffins all rely less on eggs than other products.
Even if bakers don’t fully replace eggs, reduction can give them an out when prices jump.
“If they simply reduce the eggs, they can be more flexible in their formulation,” Ms. Denning explained. “They can increase the egg content when prices are down and reduce egg content when they go back up.”
Bakers also might remove eggs in pursuit of an allergen-free label or even to make a vegan claim on packaging. That’s not just a grab at consumer dollars, however. Allergen-free formulations have production value as well.
“The egg allergen elimination allows for much easier clean-up, ingredient storage and mitigates the potential microbial issues inherent with using eggs,” Mr. Orr said.
Nailing down a replacement
Eggs can provide a wide range of functionality, but they don’t always play the same roles in every formulation. To effectively reduce or replace them, it’s important that bakers understand what eggs are doing in a formulation before attempting to replicate them.
“When working with someone to replace eggs, I suggest taking a step back and try to understand exactly what the egg is contributing,” said Brook Carson, vice-president of product development and marketing, Manildra USA. “It is best to understand what product attributes are most important before starting.”
Most egg reduction or replacement relies on a custom blend of ingredients, so bakers will work closely with ingredient suppliers to mimic the functionality lost when eggs are removed.
“We often recommend a custom blend so we can capture the various functions an egg plays in the customer’s specific product,” Ms. Stubbs said. “Each formulation we work with is different, meaning there isn’t a one-size-fits-all option out there. For example, with a whey protein, we can achieve great structure, but sometimes the emulsification is missing.”
Those answers can often be found in the original formula, leading to the addition of emulsifiers, shelf life extenders or other ingredients. If those items are already present, they might not be needed.
“Why add another ingredient if it’s not playing a functional role in the product?” she asked. “We’ve had the opportunity to play with proteins, fibers, gums, emulsifiers and more to explore their contributions to egg-free products and synergies between them so when a customer is looking to achieve certain characteristics, we have a starting point we can recommend.”
Agropur works with functional dairy proteins combined with other ingredients to mimic the functionality of eggs.
This process starts with a lot of communication between baker and ingredient supplier so the final solution addresses all of the baker’s concerns. These can include labeling, ingredient costs and product development time on top of eating quality and shelf life.
“When answering these questions, we listen to the specific concerns each customer has about their product, process and their consumers’ expectations,” Ms. Waters said.
From that conversation, Kerry’s bakery applications team creates a solution, working from a stable of enzymes, hydrocolloids, emulsifiers, flavor modulators, functional proteins and other ingredients.
“We rely on our regulatory teams, technology partners, production site teams and our global bakery colleagues to ensure that our customers have the most functional and economical solutions for their application,” Ms. Waters said. “We prove out the functionality on a pilot scale and use our extensive in-house analytical suite to build confidence around the solution and its performance before supporting plant scale up and troubleshooting.”
This article is an excerpt from the October 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on egg replacers, click here.