The question about whether the chicken or the egg came first is quickly becoming moot. The European Union recently declared JUST Egg’s key ingredient – mung beans – safe, San Francisco-based Eat Just Inc. announced.
The company, which is backed by Cargill, said it expects to offer the product in the United Kingdom and Europe by mid-2022, following a European Commission review, joining Zero Egg, which is made from potatoes and chickpeas. Europe’s egg market is worth $10.7 billion.
“Bringing JUST Egg to Europe, and to millions of consumers who are choosing a healthier, more sustainable approach to eating, will be one of the most important milestones for our company,” said Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of Eat Just.
Tetrick told Bloomberg (Oct. 20) the European market “is at least as large as the U.S. and potentially even larger because there’s an even more progressive, forward-thinking attitude on why sustainable food matters.”
The product, which is produced using centrifuges to separate the mung bean protein, already is offered in South Africa, South Korea, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore and China.
EXPERTS DISAGREE ON SIGNIFICANCE
It remains to be seen if the JUST Egg announcement will have widespread significance for the growing plant-based protein market. So far, plant-based egg substitutes have done little to disrupt the egg production industry, but Farhan Advani, marketing director at By Here Pay Here, predicts it’s only a matter of time.
“The JUST Egg sold by Eat Just contains just protein, oil, sugar and salt. That means there’s no antibiotics or animal DNA in it,” he told The Food Institute.
Certified nutritionist Elliot Reimers has a different take, however.
“I don’t believe that Eat Just’s JUST Egg is going to affect the poultry industry too much. Real chicken eggs have many uses and carry much more nutrients than a plant-based egg,” he said. “These plant-based eggs are also not the same in texture or form as a regular, uncooked egg and therefore their only use is a replacement for the egg as a stand-alone meal.
“For example: You cannot use plant-based eggs as substitutes in so many classic baking recipes. More so, if eggs are collected organically as nature intended then there should be no cause for alarm about the safety or efficacy of consuming eggs. The real problem is rooted in mass farming.”
CURRENT STATE OF PLANT-BASED SEGMENT
Consumers’ appetite for plant-based products grew significantly last year, up 27% from 2019 to $7 billion – still a fraction of the global protein industry, which is expected to grow to $2.7 trillion by 2040, CB Insights’ Industry Analyst Consensus reported (Aug. 9). Some of last year’s growth can be attributed to problems in meat production that occurred at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced meat processing plants to close.
The meat industry has taken note of consumer interest, with major corporations like JBS, Tyson and Hormel offering their own plant-based lines. If production shifted to the substitute and away from real eggs, the impact on poultry farms in Europe and North America could be significant. Climate change also is fueling consumer interest.
In general, the plant-based protein industry appears here to stay, judging by how companies are setting their sights on seafood substitutes, sustainability and cell-grown meats.
“Cell-based meat is grown in a lab to have the same biological properties of meat, such as texture features and taste. However, obtaining ideal flavor has been an issue in the mass production,” said Gabriel Nunez, lab tech/quality control tech for Consumers Health Report. “After eight years of research and production testing, the issues regarding flavor are now resolved for the most part, so we may see this product in grocery stores in the near future.”