The latest 12-week data suggests growth has slowed somewhat, with dollar sales of refrigerated liquid plant-based eggs down -6.5% and unit sales down -2.6%. Dollar sales of 'plant-based positioned frozen breakfast entrees,' however, which capture plant-based egg products such as JUST Egg's folded and sous vide products, were up +70% in the full year (units +86%), and +17% in the latest 12 weeks (units +29%).
Right now, plant-based eggs are still a fairly niche product. However, the addressable market is potentially significant, spanning industrial applications as well as foodservice and retail, with some CPG manufacturers keen to tap into the plant-based trend, while others are looking to avoid allergens and pathogens (salmonella) and secure more consistent pricing and supplies, claim brands in the space.
According to Eat Just, which dominates the liquid egg alternative market in the US, its mung bean protein-based JUST Egg is the second-fastest growing egg brand in the country (conventional or plant-based) and the 13th best-selling branded egg in the total market out of 1,700+ SKUs, selling >300 million egg equivalents since its launch in 2018.
Its retail price has also dropped significantly in recent years, halving from around $8 for a 12oz bottle with 8 egg equivalents in 2018 to around $4 today, although it is still more expensive on average than chicken eggs, which have just hit an average retail price of $4.16 for a dozen eggs, according to IRI, up 74% vs 2019.
Eat Just: ‘Plants don’t get the flu’
With surging egg prices and avian flu (which has led to some availability challenges in recent weeks) hitting the headlines, Eat Just seized the moment with a full-page ad in the New York Times over the weekend observing that ‘Plants don’t get the flu.’
Eat Just is also running ads on 55-inch digital displays at 800+ Volta electric vehicle charging stations outside grocery stores in major cities across the US, VP, head of global communications & public affairs Andrew Noyes told FoodNavigator-USA.
“By engaging potential shoppers feet away from store entrances, our goal is to not only increase purchase intent but also educate consumers on why they should choose an egg that’s better for them and better for the planet,*** particularly when conventional eggs are hard to find.”
JUST Egg: ‘Unit velocity in retail is higher than it has ever been’
Noyes would not share revenues, but told us: “We have seen consistent, strong growth across the JUST Egg brand and unit velocity in retail is higher than it has ever been. Our sales team has taken steps to allow for expanded distribution, increased shelf space and ensure our grocery partners have product to meet accelerated demand.
He added: “Sales for the JUST Egg brand grew steadily in 2022. Notably, JUST Egg Folded [a frozen product featuring JUST Egg] sales grew nearly 24% in the 52 weeks ending Dec 31, 2022 and JUST Egg Folded increased household penetration by 73% in 2022.
“JUST Egg Folded is the #1 best-selling product in the frozen breakfast set at a leading national natural grocer followed by JUST Egg Sous Vide America (#3), and JUST Egg Sous Vide Mexico (#5). The total JUST Egg brand makes up 60% of sales in the frozen breakfast set at that retailer.”
New listings at 7-Eleven Canada and Caribou Coffee
JUST Egg has “added substantially to our retail and foodservice door count in North America in recent months,” claimed Noyes, who claimed that JUST Egg accounts for > 99% of the plant-based egg market with distribution in 48,000+ retail locations and nearly 3,000 foodservice locations, with branded partnerships with other CPG brands including Field Roast, Mikey’s, Mings Bings and Crepini adding 9,700+ points of industrial/ingredient points of distribution in North America.
Asked about high-profile retail partnerships, he said, “Caribou Coffee just made the JUST Egg Roasted Tomato & Pesto Flatbread a permanent menu addition at nearly 400 coffeehouses nationwide after sales of the product surpassed Caribou’s forecasts when it was launched as an limited time offer last May.
“This week, 7-Eleven Canada is rolling out its first-ever 100% plant-based breakfast item and it's made with JUST Egg. It’s part of 7-Eleven’s ‘Healthy To Go’ menu and will be available at 550 locations in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario.”
81% of JUST Egg purchasing households also buy conventional eggs
As to who is buying JUST Egg products in grocery stores, he said, “We have a very broad base of consumers that are choosing us for health reasons, to be more sustainable or the fact that our eggs just taste really good.
"We see our consumers live flexitarian lifestyles with 81% of our purchasing households also buying conventional eggs and 80% purchasing alternative meats. We know our consumers over-index as younger and more diverse than the traditional egg buyer.
“About 10% of our JUST Egg pourable format sales last year were driven by consumers switching from buying shelled eggs to buying JUST Egg and we expect this trend to continue to increase.”
Addressing application opportunities, he said, the pourable version of JUST Egg is ideal for scrambles, omelets, and frittatas, and works in a wide variety of baking applications, “with a few exceptions, such as light, airy cakes and meringues.”
The JUST Egg supply chain
JUST Egg products are made from a base of mung bean protein isolate and canola oil, with seasonings, emulsifiers and turmeric for color.
Most of the mung beans in JUST Egg products are processed at an Eat Just facility in Appleton, Minnesota, which now mills the beans and extracts the protein on-site, and is also aiming to monetize the starch side-stream from the operation, said Noyes.
“Centralizing our protein processing operations has resulted in process improvements, avoiding multiple touch points across our supply chain and increasing overall efficiency.”
Eat Just then sells the mung bean protein isolate to partners such as Egg Solutions in Canada and Michael Foods in the US, who add other ingredients before distributing JUST Egg products to foodservice and retail partners.
“We have invested heavily in building capacity and increasing quality, so that Appleton is a fully integrated facility from bean to protein,” said Noyes, who said margins would continue to improve through more efficient sourcing of mung beans, higher yields from processing, monetizing byproducts (starch and fiber), and increased scale.
“This year alone, we’ve converted 5,800 square feet of warehouse to production space and added 4,400 square feet of additional buildings for utilities and equipment. That’s over 10,000 square feet of new production space in 2022. We also have operations in Germany; however, we are not yet in the European market.”
The egg alternatives landscape in the US
There is still only a relatively small – albeit rapidly-growing - number of players making egg alternatives for retail, from Eat Just to Hodo (soy-based scramble), Nabati Plant Eggz (liquid with lupin and pea protein), Bob’s Red Mill (powdered substitute from potato starch, tapioca flour and psyllium husk fiber), Follow Your Heart (soy-based powder), Neat Egg (chickpeas and chia seeds) and some private label offerings from brands such as Kroger’s Simple Truth.
However, several new players are now entering the market. Crafty Counter has just launched plant-based boiled eggs for snacking under the WunderEggs brand at Whole Foods nationwide; Spero has just launched a liquid egg alternative made with pumpkin seeds at Sprouts; and Acremade from pea protein giant PURIS is just hitting the market.
Zero Egg (using soy, pea, chickpea and potato protein) is initially targeting CPG and foodservice buyers, while ‘animal-free’ egg protein startups such as The EVERY Co are developing real egg proteins in fermentation tanks using genetically engineered microbes as mini production factories.
* According to the latest CPI figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
** SPINS data covers natural enhanced and conventional MULO channels, but does not include c-stores, e-commerce sales, or data from some retailers such as Trader Joe’s, ALDI, and Costco.
***JUST Egg contains 5g protein per serving (comparable to a regular egg at 6g) from mung beans, zero cholesterol and zero saturated fat. It does not, however, contain some of the nutrients found in chicken eggs such as choline, lutein, zeaxanthin, selenium and vitamin B12. According to Eat Just, JUST Egg has a significantly lower environmental impact than chicken eggs, requiring less land and water and generating fewer carbon emissions.
Zero Egg - a startup hoping to crack the US market with the launch of plant-based egg alternatives for foodservice operators and CPG manufacturers – has developed a patent-pending blend of plant proteins (soy, potato, pea, chickpea) it claims beats rivals on taste, versatility and affordability.
The first Zero Egg branded b2b products – which are co-manufactured in the US – are initially targeting the foodservice market, according to CEO Liron Nimrodi (pictured right), although the firm has also struck co-branding deals with plant-based meat CPG brands such as Alpha Foods and plans a move into retail in due course.
Image credit: Elaine Watson
Acremade – PURIS - a leading supplier of pea protein in North America – recently launched its first consumer brand dedicated to egg replacement: Acremade. The product debuted direct to consumer at acremade.com, but retail accounts will follow, CEO Nicole Atchison told FoodNavigator-USA last fall.
Industrial markets are also being targeted, said Atchison: “We’re actively working with brand partners who seek to remove egg as an allergen, or to add plant-based egg to their products.”
She added: “Foodservice is also a huge opportunity. The industry needs convenient, affordable, available options, and we can deliver on this and we designed our product to meet the nutritional requirements of children and to be top-nine allergen free.”
Made from yellow pea protein, lupin flour, pea starch, gellan gum, methylcellulose, sea salt, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, natural flavor, onion powder, dried yeast, calcium carbonate and turmeric, Acremade “isn’t just filling in for egg binding like other powdered replacements; it looks, cooks, tastes and acts like the real thing,” she told us.
“Beyond comparable protein content to conventional eggs and as much or more protein than plant-based competitors, Acremade has nutritional advantages such as no cholesterol, fewer calories, and less fat while containing fiber and calcium, which our competition does not.” Image credit: PURIS
Plant-based brand Crafty Counter has developed what it claims is an industry first: ready-to-eat plant-based boiled eggs, which have just launched in ready-to-eat six packs at craftycounter.com and at Whole Foods stores nationwide in the refrigerated eggs and dairy section of the store.
WunderEggs 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 and turmeric, said Crafty Counter founder Hema Reddy, who is phasing out her legume-based frozen plant-based bites to focus on WunderEggs this year.
“But we are not just a hardboiled eggs company. Our newly focused mission is to bring more varieties in plant-based eggs.”
Image credit: Crafty Counter
Spero’s Pepita Egg alternative - now available at Sprouts nationwide - is billed as "the first clean-label egg alternative you can pour and cook, or bake" with seven ingredients: Water, pumpkin seeds, salt, garlic powder, mushroom extract, beta carotene, and nisin.
Image credit: Spero Foods