Are egg replacements all they're cracked up to be?
The fluctuating supply and price of real eggs, as well as the consumer trend toward more plant-based foods, are driving growth in egg replacements, according to Food Ingredients First.
Ingredient suppliers said this growing demand for egg replacement products is linked to more vegan and flexitarian dietary choices among global consumers. Other factors behind the trend are food safety concerns and potential import taxes.
"In 2017 and 2018, for example, scares in the U.S. and Europe involving Salmonella and the pesticide Fipronil caused big fluctuations in supply levels and prices," Lene Hald Pedersen, senior category manager for bakery for Arla Foods Ingredients, told Food Ingredients First. "Looking forward, there are fears the EU could place import levies on egg powder in 2019, which would most likely exacerbate the situation. Many bakery manufacturers are turning to egg replacers to mitigate the impact of this challenging environment."
Egg replacements have become more popular in recent years, and the market is expected to grow. A recent Technavio report projected the global market for egg replacement ingredients will see a compound annual growth rate of nearly 6% from 2019 to 2023. In 2018, the Americas comprised more than 44% of that growth, the report said.
Several developments have influenced the market, including the 2015 avian flu outbreak, which hurt egg supplies and caused their prices to rise. While egg production has recovered since then, demand dwindled as manufacturers began to try egg replacements, extenders and other techniques to limit the need for real eggs.
The Technavio report said the rising vegan population and the increasing demand for plant-based alternatives also contribute to the booming egg replacer market. Food allergies and sustainability concerns have also played a role, it noted, along with general health concerns related to egg consumption.
"Eggs contain excessive calories, fat, and cholesterol, which can lead to health-related issues," Technavio said. "Rising awareness about preventative healthcare and an inclination for products with low cholesterol levels have increased the popularity of egg replacement ingredients or substitutes such as flaxseeds, baking powder, soy flour, and aquafaba, among others."
All of this adds up to a perfect storm for the egg industry, as production of real eggs exceeds demand. Wholesale prices for Grade A large eggs have dropped almost 30% since the beginning of this year, according to Food Business News. Prices for Grade A medium eggs have fallen even more. However, medium eggs not moving at retail often go to processors or are made into egg products.
Ingredient manufacturers are investing in R&D in the egg replacement sector, with several products emerging last year. Ingredion rolled out two organic cornstarch products for use in savory foods, refrigerated soups, alternative dairy products, sauces and baby foods. Archer Daniels Midland introduced a dried yeast-based alternative protein source for pet food applications, which the company said has an amino acid profile similar to an egg but at a more economical price. JUST has also introduced a consumer-facing substitute, JUST Egg, which is made from mung bean protein and scrambles like an egg.
As more such products start appearing, manufacturers are likely to explore using egg replacement ingredients to appeal to consumers with dietary and sustainability concerns. The possibility of lower production costs, and possibly easier transportation and storage, is another major incentive to look into the growing sector.
Not all egg replacers can measure up to real eggs, however. This is particularly true in cakes, according to Food Ingredients First. Eggs provide textural and flavor benefits needed to give cakes the lift, emulsification and stabilization properties consumers expect. Until food scientists can replicate all properties of eggs, manufacturers may need to use a mixed formulation of egg replacements and real eggs.
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