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Fi Europe 2022

Getting ahead in the egg alternative industry [Interview]

Article-Getting ahead in the egg alternative industry [Interview]

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For health, moral, and environmental reasons, a rapidly growing contingent of consumers are now seeking alternatives to traditional eggs. From consumers switching out traditional dairy for the sake of animal wellbeing, to those concerned about the environmental impact of animal agriculture, to those looking to lower their cholesterol levels, the drivers behind plant-based eggs are multiple. Given this rising consumer demand and with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.9%, it’s not surprising that the egg alternative market could reach a value of over $1 billion in 2022, according to data from Future Market Insights.

From emulsification to coagulation, to binding and thickening, eggs are multifunctional ingredients which can be used to achieve various end applications in food production. Due to their unique texture and properties, replicating eggs, however, is by no means easy, says food and drink microstructure expert, Jo Baker Perrett.

“A combination of ingredients is required to replace the multiple functionalities of egg,” he says.

Jo Baker Perrett is the leader of the Food and Drink Microstructure section of the Product Innovation Department at Campden BRI, a food and drink science research company based in the UK.

He will be speaking at Food Ingredients Europe this year on the topic ‘Egg replacement - Challenges and Solutions’. We caught up with him ahead of the event to find out more.

What qualities of eggs make them so difficult to replace in bakery products?

“Egg is a relatively cheap ingredient that is highly functional. This means that it has multiple uses such as foam stabilization, emulsification, gelling and improvement of taste and mouthfeel.

“Baking in general can also be a very tricky process and is influenced by many factors other than the recipe. Baking temperatures, batter viscosity and other processing factors make it difficult to take one ingredient out and replace it while keeping all other factors the same. i.e., you may be able to replace egg with some ingredients, but this may also require a change in process.”

Which, in your opinion, are the most promising egg alternatives on the market currently?

“Unfortunately, it is rare that you can replace egg with just one ingredient. Instead, a combination of ingredients is required to replace the multiple functionalities of egg.

“Plant proteins are being widely used as they can offer similar functionalities such as gelling, emulsification and foaming. It is important to note however, that there are many different types of plant proteins available, and they have a large range of functional properties, even within the same protein type.

“Other ingredients such as hydrocolloids can be used to help with other functional properties such as viscosity modification from a gum, or heat set gelling from methyl cellulose.”

What advice would you give to manufacturers looking to enter the egg alternative space?

“Understand the function of all the ingredients that are in the original product, then understand what functions the egg is performing. Then you can identify ingredients that you can add to replace these functions.

“Also, it is important to know the properties of the intermediate products such as batter viscosity, so when making changes to the recipe you can monitor how these changes affect the process.

“Additionally, when trialing ingredients to see if they are potential replacements and they don’t work, try to understand where they have failed. It may be that small adjustments to the process or the recipe (with additional ingredients) may be all that is required.”

What are the benefits for manufacturers of using specially produced egg alternatives in product formulations, rather than reformulating with ingredients that share similar qualities with traditional eggs?

“Quite often the functionality of these ingredients is well understood by the supplier. The supplier will also likely have some model recipes that work and can be used as a starting point. The supplier is also likely to provide support with recipe development.”

How are consumers responding to egg alternatives? Is there a high demand for these products on the European market and do you expect this demand to grow moving forward?

“From personal experience, we are doing more and more work on plant proteins and alternative ingredients to egg. From my understanding the market is growing and is expected to continue to grow. Factors such as sustainability, health and ethics are driving this.”