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Powdered aquafaba taps into ‘sizeable’ egg replacement market

Article-Powdered aquafaba taps into ‘sizeable’ egg replacement market

© iStock/Irina Tetereva RS, aquafaba meringues, vegan, plant-based, chickpeas, Irina Tetereva,1299998684 .jpg
Replacing eggs as an ingredient allows brands to create affordable products for cost-sensitive consumers – but finding clean label functional equivalents is challenging. One startup, Fabumin, says its upcycled powdered aquafaba binds, emulsifies, and foams just like shell eggs.

As an ingredient, egg provides a multitude of functions from emulsification and coagulation to binding and thickening. It also boosts the nutritional profile by providing protein and essential amino acids, and improves the taste, texture, and appearance of the final product. Best of all, brands need to declare just one natural ingredient on the ingredient list.

However, the shell egg, liquid egg, and powdered egg markets are highly volatile and subject to widely fluctuating prices. Avian flu is one reason. In 2022, the entire population of laying hens in Europe nearly halved – decreasing from 8% to 5% – with a loss of 18.7 million birds in Poland alone, according to a report by the animal welfare NGO, Eurogroup for Animals.

Other factors include rising feed and energy costs due to the war in Ukraine, supermarket price wars, and animal welfare regulations, which have all contributed to rising costs for producers and even egg shortages for shoppers, according to a statement by the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Mintel: The egg replacement market presents a ‘sizeable opportunity’

These supply chain challenges are encouraging manufacturers to replace egg in their formulations – and there are significant opportunities for suppliers of egg-replacing ingredients, said Emma Schofield, associate director of food science at market research company Mintel.

“Over recent years, egg replacers have been developed for the new wave of trendy plant-based egg uptake in the B2C market,” Schofield wrote in a recent Mintel report entitled, Cost-saving ingredients: Egg replacers.

“Such egg replacers include Just Egg made from mung bean protein and Oggs made from chickpea protein, also termed aquafaba. […] However, few consumers avoid eggs and few purchase egg-free foods.

“The more sizeable opportunity for egg replacers lies in the opportunity for egg replacers as ingredients in foods like baked goods or desserts, quietly delivering cost savings in food and drink for the price-sensitive consumer.”

Replacing eggs without changing the sensory characteristics of their products – all while keeping ingredient lists clean – is a technical challenge for brands.

However, with many consumers scrutinising ingredient lists and avoiding ultra-processed foods, conventional egg-replacing ingredients such as modified starch, methylcellulose, and alpha cyclodextrin may no longer appeal.

Transforming liquid aquafaba into an industrial-scale ingredient

One clean label alternative, liquid aquafaba, is well known to vegan home bakers as a plant-based replacement for eggs but it is difficult to use at an industrial scale.

The food industry doesn't know how to work with liquids for shelf life, storage, [or] transport reasons,” said Adi Yehezkeli, CEO and co-founder of Fabumin, an Israeli startup that says its powdered aquafaba is a game-changing egg substitute.

It has developed a patented process that transforms the used cooking water from legume processing factories – facilities that manufacture tinned beans, lentils, and chickpeas, for example – and evaporates it and dries it, creating a functional egg substitute powder. 

“The legume industry takes legumes every day and pours millions of cubic litres of wastewater down the drain,” Yehezkeli added, speaking to Fi Global Insights at the Hello Tomorrow Global Summit in Paris this year. “And this wastewater, called aquafaba, was discovered 10 years ago as a magical raw material that can replace egg in the food industry. By drying it into a functional powder, we can [give] it an industrial use – and we can make tons of products.”

Fabumin said its aquafaba powder binds, emulsifies, and foams just like egg and can be used to make products such as vegan whipped cream, chocolate mousse, brioche, sponge cake, and mayonnaise.

One kilo of Fabumin’s aquafaba powder is equivalent to 130 eggs and, for some recipes like sponge cake, a 20% egg inclusion rate can be replaced with just 1% of Fabumin, according to the company.

Fabumin, which was founded by husband-and-wife team Adi Yehezkeli and Adi Lengel, its COO, during the Covid-19 pandemic, currently has joint R&D projects with 14 companies around the world testing its powder, including major B2B and B2C multinationals.

Nutritionally, however, Fabumin’s powder provides around one-third of the protein of whole egg powder and has around four times less protein than egg white powder, so the final product’s nutritional profile will be impacted.

Take a by-product, make a co-product: Fabumin’s circular economy model

Yehezkeli and Lengel are both vegan and were motivated to develop an industrial-scale egg replacement to reduce the food industry’s reliance on animal agriculture and factory farming.

Mission-driven Fabumin has donated 3% of its shares to an animal welfare non-profit organisation, Freedom Farm, that cares for animals that have been rescued from factory farms.

Fabumin’s circular economy model also means its ingredient has a much smaller environmental impact than conventional eggs.

“We [use] a byproduct and we create a co-product. This is our added value for the industry. We can handle their waste, treat their waste, recycle the water, and create a new and revolutionary raw material that is critical [for the] industry,” said Yehezkeli.

Its “plug and play” system consists of an evaporation to reduce the water content and a drying unit to create a powder.

The startup plans on licencing its technology to pulse processors so they can treat their own pulse cooking water directly in their facilities and produce the aquafaba powder to sell to third parties. Processors can also reuse the distilled cooking water to cook more pulses.

This model allows processors to reduce their water bills by up to 80% and generate an additional revenue stream by selling the aquafaba powder, Yehezkeli said.