- Spero Foods, which produces plant-based dairy and egg products, wants to expand nationally through seed-round funding, reports Food Navigator.
- The company’s products focus on creating plant-based foods using minimal clean-label ingredients with high nutrient value, like seeds.
- “When I first started looking at what was on the market, I saw that a lot of the products had no real nutritional benefit; they had hardly any protein or naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, plus they didn’t taste good and they were expensive, so I decided to try and reverse engineer diary and egg products from cheaper and more nutrient-dense ingredients such as seeds,” founder Phaedra Randolph told Food Navigator.
Although the demand for plant-based protein alternatives has soared, “plant-based” does not necessarily mean stellar health benefits. But consumers may feel differently. A recent study from DuPont Nutrition & Health found 52% of U.S. consumers are eating more plant-based foods. The consensus of all consumers was plant-based eating makes them feel healthier.
Unsurprisingly, this health halo has had financial waves. From June 2017 to June 2018, retail sales of plant-based foods jumped 20% to $3.3 billion, according to Nielsen data reported by Food Navigator. However, perhaps consumers should take a closer look at the labels of those plant-based protein options that have reinvented the meaning of Meatless Mondays.
For example, Beyond Meat's plant-based patties have five times as much sodium as an unseasoned beef patty and a whole lot more saturated fat from coconut oil, ingredients used for preservation and flavor. Admittedly, the patties have lower cholesterol than their red meat equivalents, but because of the highly processed nature of the plant protein isolates, the burgers lose some of their nutritional value, dietitian Sharon Palmer told Men’s Journal.
At the same time, it is difficult to say that these processed protein isolates are bad for the body. Some are genetically modified, like the soy from which Impossible Foods extracts its signature ingredient heme. Some scientists and the federal government say that products with GMOs are not harmful, while critics are skeptical over the safety of consuming foods containing these ingredients and question how growing them impacts the environment.
There is plenty of room in this developing market to make a mark, and Spero Foods' egg and cheese replacements cater to those interested in plant-based alternatives without so much laboratory work behind their creation. Jon Stratford, sales and marketing manager for Iowa-based Natural Products, told Food Business News, that food makers also prefer single-ingredient options to eggs and egg ingredients so they can maintain a cleaner and shorter product label. Many commercial egg replacers are blends, which makes for a longer ingredient statement.
One of Spero’s major competitors is JUST Egg, which is developed from a mung bean protein isolate. Its ingredient list includes gellan gum, soy lecithin, potassium citrate and transglutaminase. Spero’s egg replacement Scramblit has a complete ingredient list of water, pumpkin seeds, turmeric, garlic powder and black salt.
This shortened ingredient list may make the product more appealing to baked goods manufacturers who are searching for egg alternatives to stave off instances of salmonella or produce allergen-free baked goods while still appealing to a consumer base that is looking for clean-label or free-from products.
However, JUST Egg has been rapidly expanding worldwide, launching in China last week. In February, JUST told Food Dive the company had crossed the benchmark of selling the equivalent of 3 million eggs.
To catch up and be competitive, Spero is going to need more money. According to the Food Navigator article, there is already a demand for Scramblit from meal kit companies, food manufacturers and major retailers. If this demand continues and Spero can show that it has a strong retail customer base, there is a good chance that it will be able to raise the seed money that it needs to scale its production and increase its distribution.