Wundereggs – which will be sold in snack packs featuring two ‘eggs’ - are treated with high pressure processing (HPP), giving them a refrigerated shelf-life of 90-120 days, and contain a plant-based egg ‘white’ featuring nuts and agar, and 'yolks' made with nuts, turmeric and black salt.
“We’re using a proprietary process and so we're filing a provisional patent on that,” said founder Hema Reddy, who worked to keep the ingredients list as short as possible, featuring ingredients consumers can recognize and pronounce (see box below), with an SRP of around $5 for two ‘eggs,’ although pricing has not yet been finalized.
Saturated fat levels in the cholesterol-free products are around the same as regular eggs, while version one of the Wunderegg also contains slightly more calories and less protein than chicken eggs. However, Crafty Counter is looking at how to increase protein levels without compromising taste, texture or the brand's clean label credentials, Reddy told FoodNavigator-USA.
While Wundereggs do not contain many of the nutrients found in chicken eggs such as choline, lutein, zeaxanthin, selenium and vitamin B12, later iterations could also incorporate additional nutrients, said Reddy.
Wundereggs v1 ingredient list: Water, cashews, almonds, probiotics*, coconut milk, less than 2% of nutritional yeast, organic turmeric extract, agar, black salt
*specific strain not yet finalized as the firm works to ensure the microorganism will not be negatively impacted by the HPP process
Animal welfare and chicken eggs: ‘My mind started racing… what can I do to help make a difference?’
A big fan of boiled eggs, Reddy said she was prompted to develop a plant-based version after learning more about the experience of most laying hens, and the practice of culling male chicks (which are of no value to the food industry).
She explained the food industry raises two different breeds of chicken: broilers for meat, and layers for eggs. The problem is that male layers are of no use to the egg or meat industry: They can’t lay eggs, and there’s no market for their meat, so they are culled the day they’re born, prompting investment in a suite of technologies designed to accurately and quickly determine the sex of layer chick eggs before they hatch, so chicks are not born only to immediately die.
Female chicks - whether in caged or cage-free environments, meanwhile, have a pretty miserable existence, she said.
“I love eggs – my go-to breakfast was avocado toast with some hot sauce, cucumbers, goat cheese, and slice up boiled egg,” said Reddy. “But once you know [what factory farming looks like], there is no going back. You can't unsee it. And my mind started racing, about what can I do to help make a difference?”
While there are now many players in the plant-based egg space from Eat Just to Zero Egg, Spero Foods, Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg (now part of Danone), and neat eggs (Atlantic Natural Foods), often targeting specific applications, such as scrambled egg, or baking products, there is not as yet a plant-based boiled egg product on the market, said Reddy, who saw some white space in the category.
“I wanted to create a snackable option that my kids can take to school or I can put on a sandwich or have as a snack with dips, and it’s a work in progress. The first iteration uses cashews and almonds, but later versions may use pea as a base. We’re also looking at other form factors.”
Plant-based eggs are arguably still a fairly niche product, although the addressable market is potentially huge if you look beyond retail products to foodservice and industrial applications, with CPG manufacturers keen to tap into the plant-based trend, but also looking to avoid certain allergens, food safety issues such as salmonella, and secure more consistent pricing and supplies (conventional egg prices are notoriously volatile and subject to fluctuations caused by avian flu and other factors).
However, for consumers looking for a protein-packed snack, pre-boiled chicken eggs are both affordable and nutrient-packed, and per capita consumption continues to rise in the US (despite a blip in 2020 which the egg industry attributed to covid-related issues).
That said, the fact major restaurant chains such as Peet’s in the US and Dico’s in China now feature plant-based eggs in breakfast sandwiches is helping to raise awareness of alternatives among mainstream consumers who may be open to plant-based burgers or milks but have not yet tried plant-based egg or cheese, said Reddy.
“I feel like new entrants into plant-based categories will have an easier path to market adoption because it's been paved by pioneers.”
The go to market strategy
The plan is to raise awareness through an initiative with influencers that have been vocal in the plant-based movement who will help provide initial feedback, said Reddy. “And then once we feel like we're at a good place, we will start opening up the product for pre-sales. Right now we have an interest page where we’re inviting folks to join our waitlist.
“After that, the next stage will be a commercial launch for e-commerce with a retail launch to follow after that. We see natural grocery as the starting point for retail, and we’re started a dialogue with Sprouts and Whole Foods. We’re still in early discussions, but there may be opportunities in the plant-based dairy section, or the high-traffic egg section [where many retailers are now stocking Just Egg products].”
Down the road, there may also be opportunities to feature in retailers’ emerging fresh snacking sets, where you’ll find regular hard-boiled egg snack packs sitting alongside salads, fresh snack bars and other chilled products, she said.
“I could see us partnering with plant-based cheese companies, or with crackers to make snack packs,” said Reddy, who is currently raising seed money and hopes to close a $2m round by the end of the year.
Wundernuggets will become Wunder Bites
Meanwhile, Crafty Counter’s core products – frozen plant-based ‘Wundernuggets’ – are being rebranded to ‘Wunder Bites,’ in order to make it clearer to consumers that they are legume- and veggie-packed bites, rather than meat analogs, which the word ‘nuggets’ can imply to some shoppers, said Reddy,
“We’re not trying to be a chicken nugget alternative, we’re selling whole food lant-based bites, so we have a brand new design that is super exciting and so fun, coming along.”
- Read more about Crafty Counter HERE.