Scrambled, fried, or hard-boiled, eggs are consumed in more than 90% of U.S. households and are served at three out of four foodservice establishments. Replacing eggs with plant-based egg alternatives represents an opportunity for food manufacturers to align their products with growing consumer interest in plant-based foods.
GFI’s latest paper, “Plant-based egg alternatives: Optimizing for functional properties and applications,” provides a roadmap of the various alternatives that exist, the functional properties they provide, and the relative importance of these functionalities across various applications.
Consumers and manufacturers want a better egg
In general, plant-based foods are associated with positive health effects and sustainability. Consumers may seek egg-free options in particular to avoid cholesterol and egg allergies, as well as to support a sustainable and animal-friendly product, brand, or company.
Due to their limited shelf life and inventory, food manufacturers face price volatility and supply chain stability concerns when it comes to eggs. This volatility is compounded by fluctuating seasonal demand for egg-containing food products, as well as outbreaks and contamination causing interruptions in supply. For example, to control the spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) that affected U.S. egg-laying flocks from 2014 to 2015, 33 million egg-laying hens were killed. This ultimately caused egg prices to increase by 36%.
At the same time, many food manufacturers are instituting self-imposed sustainability metrics as part of broader sustainability metrics. A switch from eggs to plant-based alternatives can help food manufacturers meet these goals.
Eggs are big business — and not just for breakfast anymore
The global plant-based egg alternative ingredients market is projected to reach over $1.5B by the end of 2026. But the true size of the market opportunity for replacing eggs approaches $10 billion annually in the U.S. alone.
There has been an expansion in egg consumption beyond the breakfast meal, which has been facilitated in part by restaurant offerings, such as all-day breakfast menus. Breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos, available at restaurants and supermarkets, are increasingly popular ways to consume eggs.
Cracking the code to build a better egg
Understanding the need within a given food product is important to decoding what is required in an egg alternative. A quick-service restaurant may be looking for an egg-free scramble, whereas a mayonnaise manufacturer may only be looking to replace the emulsification function of eggs. On the other hand, a household may want the flexibility to use an egg-replacer in a variety of ways.
GFI’s new paper serves as a resource for those developing new plant-based egg alternatives and for those seeking to incorporate egg alternatives into a variety of food products. Here are a few highlights:
In some applications, egg alternatives provide better functionality than eggs. For example, the better binding, emulsification, foam stabilization, and flavor enhancement of certain egg alternatives may be particularly useful in bakery and confectionery applications.
Although some egg alternatives are very close to providing all the functionalities of eggs, a perfect stand-alone replacement does not yet exist.
Certainly, a stand-alone egg replacement that could be used for all egg applications and provide all of the functionalities of eggs would be of tremendous value to the food industry and to consumers. This might be achieved through optimization of the ingredient blend concept and supported by plant proteins with unique functionalities, including the ability to coagulate. As new plant proteins are discovered and isolated, these options will increase.
Other potential commercialization opportunities include an egg replacer specifically designed for the baking industry that could be used across all baking applications because eggs provide such a broad range of functionalities in bakery products.
GFI’s Corporate Engagement Team will be sharing this paper with food manufacturers. Our SciTech team will continue to actively consult with companies seeking to implement plant-based egg products.
Thanks to Miranda Grizio and Dr. Liz Specht for their thorough work on this!