Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after announcing that JUST Egg is rolling out to 2,100 Kroger-owned stores, bringing its total store count to 5,100+ stores, Tetrick said JUST has sold the plant-based equivalent of 10m eggs to date, outselling 29 of 60 egg SKUs at a top three retailer nationwide during a couple of weeks in July.
“There are few examples of a plant-based product outselling an animal-based product in national distribution — this is one of them.”
‘95%+ of conversations, emails, meetings, are about JUST Egg’
One of the first - but most challenging - products Tetrick started working on at San Francisco-based JUST, Inc (formerly Hampton Creek) back in 2011, JUST Egg is made from water, mung bean protein isolate, canola oil, gums, and seasonings, and is claimed to look, cook, and taste, just like scrambled egg.
However, it has taken several years to perfect the recipe and build the supply chain, during which time the company has pumped time and resources into mayo, dressings, cookie dough, and most recently cell-cultured meat.
Today, said Tetrick, “95%+ of conversations, emails, meetings, are about JUST Egg.
“The company is JUST Egg, and JUST Egg is the company. It was the reason I started the company, and when we look at revenue and profitability and brand, it’s very much through the prism of JUST Egg. It’s been a whirlwind year, we’re the first plant-based egg ever to end up on a major QSR menu with Tim Hortons, and we just launched in China with Alibaba, JD.com and some others.”
As for the total addressable market for JUST Egg vs plant-based mayo, dressings, and so on, it was “incomparable,” he added.
“We see retail and foodservice as equally important channels for us,” said Tetrick, who shared data in May showing that JUST Egg had become the #1 liquid egg in the natural channel.
“They kind of feed off one another, so you see the brand in Kroger and then you recognize it in a college campus, and so on.”
The arrival of high-profile plant-based meat products from brands such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods at QSR chains has also helped raise awareness of plant-based products among mainstream consumers, which will benefit JUST Egg, he said: “I think these companies end up helping each other more than they realize.”
Ingredients, Just Egg: Water, mung bean protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, contains less than 2% of calcium citrate, enzyme, gellan gum, natural carrot extractives (color), natural flavors, natural turmeric extractives (color), onion puree, salt, soy lecithin, sugar, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, preservative (nisin, potassium sorbate).
As for prioritizing management time and resources, he said: “We want to get egg right, although we continue to work on cell line development for [cell-cultured] chicken, wagyu beef and some other cell lines, and we’re now scaling up in a larger bioreactor, moving from a lab scale to a pilot scale, and we’re seeing good results.”
He added: “This is the first full year that we’re selling JUST Egg and we’re now in 20 of the top 23 retailers in the US, so it really gives us full national distribution and the great thing [about Kroger] is that they’re putting us in the egg set, one of the highest traffic areas of the grocery store, and not in the alternative protein set next to tempeh.”
‘We over-index with college educated women’
So who is buying JUST Egg?
“About 77% of the people buying JUST Egg are not vegans or vegetarians, and another important dynamic is that we’re seeing a much bigger opportunity in protein than egg replacement,” said Tetrick.
“So around 35%+ of people that buy JUST Egg are buying it instead of plant-based proteins such as veggie burgers and tempeh or beef, chicken and pork, and many more people are eating it for lunch or dinner.”
He added: “We over-index with college educated women, who will say I’m trying to eat a little bit better, and when you ask them what they mean, they say, I’m trying to eat good, clean protein, free of antibiotics, sustainable, and that more than anything is their motivation, as opposed to a list of 8 different attributes.”
Asked whether consumers cared about nutritional equivalency with JUST Egg, he said: “We’re doing a pilot with Tim Hortons, and the sandwich there has 20% more protein and 60% less saturated fat than a conventional egg, and it’s free of cholesterol.
“Now when you delve into vitamins and minerals, mung beans are obviously different to eggs, and we’re looking at how can we continue to make JUST Egg healthier as well as more cost effective and tastier, but we’re not necessarily using [conventional] eggs as a reference point.”
‘We want to be the most cost effective primary source of protein’
As for the supply chain, “In a little over two years we want to be the most cost effective primary source of protein,” said Tetrick, who acknowledged that he is not yet at a point where JUST Egg production costs are lower than they are for conventional eggs, and says constructing efficient mung bean processing facilities around the globe, and finding a ready market for byproducts such as starch will be key to this.
“If you look at the cost today of egg globally it’s around 8 cents for [a regular] egg, about 23 cents for beef, and we want to get down below 5 cents [per egg equivalent], and that means more efficient sourcing, doubling the yield of the protein, and monetizing the starch [a byproduct of mung bean protein production].
“We’re really focused on continuing to make the product better, choosing the right downstream manufacturing partners, and building a brand.”
Right now, the mung beans are processed in Europe and Canada, and then JUST will sell the protein powder to partners such as European egg giant Eurovo, which will add other ingredients such as oil, gums and seasonings, and then distribute JUST Egg to foodservice and retail partners.