VeganEgg - which is made from whole algal flour, whole algal protein, cellulose gum, gellan gum carrageenan, yeast, sea salt and calcium lactate – has just launched on Amazon and selected independent food retailers (with a price tag of $6.99 - $7.99 per 4oz pack, which produces the equivalent of a dozen eggs), and almost immediately sold out.
Unlike many egg replacers, which are designed for home baking, but wouldn’t make a great scramble, VeganEgg is designed to emulate the flavor, texture and functional properties of eggs, and can make scrambles, quiches, frittatas, as well as serving as an egg replacement in baked goods.
We projected our initial run would last three months; we sold out in two weeks
It also serves as a good source of dietary fiber (4g/serving) and calcium (10% DV/serving), thanks to the nutrient-rich properties of the microalgae, and is naturally yellow (so does not require the addition of color), says Canoga Park, CA-based Follow Your Heart.
“Whenever you launch something completely new it is hard to estimate volumes,” co-founder Bob Goldberg told FoodNavigator-USA.
“We projected that our initial run would last three months, and we sold out in two weeks. I tend to be conservative [when asked if he thinks he has a hit on his hands], but based on the comments of consumers that have managed to get their hands on it, I’m very excited, as most of them said this will become a staple.”
When we first presented VeganEgg to retailers, they said we love the product, hate the package
As for retailer customers (Follow Your Heart products are available in around 15,000 locations), “almost all of them” are interested in stocking the product, said Goldberg, who credits one retailer for pressuring him to switch from a gusseted bag to something more ‘creative’ – which led to the compostable ‘egg’ box he acknowledges has been key to the product’s appeal.
“When we first presented VeganEgg to retailers, they said we love the product, hate the package. We had it in a standard gusseted bag because it was re-sealable, cost-effective, and stands up on shelf. But it wasn’t recyclable, or distinctive.
“One retailer suggested we come back with something more creative and we’re so glad, because we’re thrilled with the final package, and consumers love it. The ‘egg’ box is compostable and the inner bag is recyclable.”
Where should the VeganEgg be stocked in stores?
As to where to position the VeganEgg in stores, it’s a question that retailers are still grappling with, he said, with some putting it in the cooler next to regular eggs, some putting it in the baking aisle, others in the ‘healthy/natural’ set and so on.
“I think this is evolving. Retailers are still working out how best to position vegan products – in the healthy set or to integrate them in the main sets. It’s in flux. Ultimately, I think all these products will be integrated, but I don’t know that consumers are there yet.”
Algae: People seem to be embracing it as something new and wonderful
The fact that VeganEgg contains algae ingredients is not something Follow Your Heart has called out on the front of pack, but early feedback from consumers suggests they are very open to the idea, added Goldberg, who has developed considerable expertise in egg replacement technology over the years through the development of non-dairy cheeses, egg-free dressings, sauces, dips and spreads (notably Vegenaise).
“As we weren’t sure how consumers would respond, we didn’t play it up or down on the packaging, but as it turns out, consumers aren’t the least bit bothered from what we can see so far. Early adopters of these kinds of products may have a different viewpoint than more traditional consumers, but people seem to be embracing it as something new and wonderful.”
The movement towards plant-based foods is progressing at lightning speed
As for the wider Follow Your Heart portfolio, it is growing nicely as more consumers embrace plant-based foods, said Goldberg: “I would say that the movement towards plant-based foods is progressing at lightning speed, especially among Millennials and college students.”
He also welcomed the arrival of new players in the plant-based foods market such as Kite Hill and Miyoko’s Kitchen, which are going after the premium end of the market.
“Some of the early products in the vegan cheese category were just abysmal, which is why we got into that market in the first place, but the quality of all the products has improved significantly in the last few years, and there are so many different segments of the market to go after that there is room for multiple players.
“It’s wonderful to enjoy a $12 [non-dairy] cheese that tastes incredible, but you might not send your kids to school with it in their sandwiches every day.”
The target consumer base for products such as VeganEgg is broader than you think
While products such as almond milk might appear to have broader consumer appeal than vegan mayo or cheese, the landscape is changing rapidly as more consumers factor in animal welfare, sustainability, health, allergies, and other factors (including whether they like the ‘story’ behind the brands in question) into purchasing decisions, which meant the target consumer base for products such as VeganEgg was wider than you might think, he said.
“We are a rapidly growing company. We’ve just completed an upgrade to our production facilities that has enabled us to produce five times as much as we do now, and our growth rates have been in the double digits for the last 20 years, so we’re surfin’ pretty well!”