The folded version of the JUST Egg comes frozen and can be prepared in a few ways: toaster oven, skillet, or for the time-strapped, the standard toaster where the company suggests selecting the bagel setting for about 6.5 minutes.
"The genesis of it really was, how do we figure out a little bit of a faster way for people to enjoy it? We got really excited about this idea of folding and what that means from a texture perspective. It feels more like as if you made an omelette and put it in a biscuit," Tetrick told FoodNavigator-USA.
2019 was the first full year JUST Egg was in retail and the results surpassed both the company's and Tetrick's internal goals for the product.
"Last year we managed to get into most of the major retailers, most of them in the egg set and have managed to become the No. 1 liquid egg," said Tetrick who added that the company has sold the equivalent of 20 million eggs in its first year.
What was even more encouraging, and unexpected, was that the majority of consumers buying JUST Egg are not vegan or vegetarian, and 20% to 22% are buying the product not just as an egg replacement, but as their main source of protein, said Tetrick.
"We didn’t expect that was going to happen. Even saying it out loud, you have a hard time wrapping your brain around it."
Tetrick noted that the new folded egg is a different, fluffier version than the patty plant-based egg product JUST Egg supplies to the foodservice channel.
Frozen focus: A $57bn category
The product will begin rolling out in April in the freezer section of Whole Foods Markets; select Albertsons Safeway stores; Gelson’s Markets in Southern California; Stop & Shop in the Northeast, Kings Food Markets in the New York metro area and Giant Martin's in the Mid-Atlantic, with more to come. In all, it will be sold in approximately 5,000 stores at launch and will be available for restaurants and other foodservice destinations from major distributors.
"There are millions of shoppers going to the frozen set who have probably never heard of us, probably never heard of JUST Egg, and now they’ll be able to see it," said Tetrick.
Retail frozen food alone is a $57bn business annually, with the category growing in both dollar and units in 2018, according to the American Frozen Food Institute and Food Marketing Institute.
The folded egg, which was developed with breakfast sandwiches in mind, has potentially much broader, all-day appeal with consumers, says the firm. According to a recent survey, conducted by the company of nearly 1,000 consumers, 50% would use the fold-over egg replacement as a general sandwich ingredient and 40% would add it to other dishes such as salads or fried rice, underscoring its appeal as a convenient protein source.
As a frozen product, the JUST Egg contains the same base ingredients (i.e. mung bean protein) but is free-from the preservatives of the liquid egg product, noted Tetrick. At retail, the products will be placed either next to traditional frozen breakfast sandwiches or in the plant-based protein alternatives section.
"It will next It will be good for us, because you can hypothesize about which set works best," Tetrick said. With the company's liquid JUST Egg product, the products perform better when placed next to conventional eggs than when put next to chilled alternative proteins.
"People are not just looking at this as a way to replace an egg, that’s an element of it, but there’s a big percentage of people that are looking at this as clean, healthy, sustainable protein," he noted.
The cost equation
Opening up its own dedicated production facility in Western Minnesota at the end of last year, means that JUST Egg can start reducing costs and make the products accessible to all, not just high-income shoppers.
"Our objective ultimately is to be the most cost effective protein source human beings consume, not just the most cost efficient egg source," Tetrick said. The average cost of an egg, globally, is about USD$0.08. Through efficient production and ingredient sourcing of the mung bean, JUST Egg has been able to reduce its cost to just over USD$0.20/egg, while still more than double the cost, it is much more cost effective than when the company first launched seven and a half years ago, said Tetrick.
According to the company, it has cut its cost of the final JUST Egg product to $4.99 SRP a bottle, down from $7.99. Its folded egg product is also $4.99 SRP, with four folded eggs to a box.
"It’s not just the taste and texture, we need to hammer on this cost piece so that the folks that I grew up with in Birmingham, Alabama, can not just afford, but easily afford," added Tetrick.