Like many others with egg allergies or sensitivities, Nicole Atchison knows that eggs aren’t just for whisking, they’re found in all sorts of products and recipes.
So the food company executive set out to develop a plant-based alternative that would work as well in crème brûlée as in a breakfast burrito.
The result was AcreMade, the first consumer product from Minneapolis-based Puris, a leading supplier of pea protein.
“We wanted to bring in something that is really allergen friendly and can be used in a variety of ways, not just for mixing,” said Atchison, CEO of Puris Holdings and AcreMade. “Ultimately it has to deliver the taste and appeal and we feel we have a great product.”
Made largely with yellow peas, the powdered egg substitute has had a limited retail offering since it hit the market this fall. The initial focus will be on food service, which Atchison hopes chefs will unlock the potential of the product and elevate the starter category.
“This will show people that plant-based foods are just delicious foods,” Atchison said.
According to sales data from the Good Food Institute and SPINS, vegan egg alternatives have been slower to emerge than other plant-based categories, but they’ve grown just as quickly—from $3 million in sales in 2018 to $39 million last year. But only a small fraction of Americans – about 2% of households – reported purchasing plant-based eggs in 2021.
“In the beginning, it’s important to understand who our key customers are,” Atchison said. “People who are plant-based, looking for more sustainable options, or have an egg allergy.”
According to a Fact.MR report, even if chicken egg consumption is expected to continue to rise, the global vegan egg market could exceed $3 billion in the next decade.
As with much of the food industry here, Minnesota has quietly become a hub for plant-based eggs.
Just Egg, which accounts for the vast majority of plant-based egg sales, has since 2019 a production facility in the town of Appleton in western Minnesota.
Almost all of the mung bean protein used in the company’s liquid egg alternative is extracted in Appleton and shipped to the facilities that produce the final product.
“Separating protein from beans requires talent, proprietary processing and a supportive community. We found all of this and more at Appleton,” said Josh Tetrick, CEO of Eat Just Inc., when announcing the facility’s acquisition in 2019.
Today, the factory employs 50 people, making up about 20% of the small California-based company’s total headcount. Eat Just Inc. added 10,000 square feet of manufacturing space in Minnesota this year and plans to continue growing as demand grows.
Atchison said there is room and need for more players in the egg alternative market.
“We think their products are really good and there is room for more than one option,” he said. “Eggs are used in many different areas that need to be addressed, and AcreMade is working on a few of them.”
At a recent event for Naturally Minnesota, a University of Minnesota-based food agriculture booster, AcreMade was highlighted in a cheesecake instead of an egg-focused meal. Mark, St. It’s also being promoted at Craft & Crew restaurants like The Block in St. Louis Park.
Eggs are still cracking
For the egg industry, a decade of rapid growth in egg consumption per capita peaked in 2019 as the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues and avian flu disrupted production.
Egg prices are expected to remain high through 2023 as poultry flocks ravaged by bird flu are replenished. This creates an opportunity for brands like Just Egg and AcreMade to tell consumers about their situation.
But the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) expects Americans to continue to eat more eggs in the coming years. By 2031, an estimated 310 eggs will be consumed annually per capita, where today 280 eggs per capita are consumed.
A recent USDA report states, “Despite their record high price levels, shell eggs remain a competitively priced protein with the advantage of offering consumers a wider range of culinary applications than any other protein.” “Of course, nothing beats cooking holiday treats.”
In fact, egg substitutes that recreate the bonding function of eggs, though not in appearance or taste, have been on the market for a long time and form the basis of vegan pastries. New egg substitute brands are trying to raise the profile of the product, as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are doing with veggie burgers.
The egg industry battled Tetrick’s vegan mayonnaise brand a few years ago, but for now it’s busy tackling bird flu and supply chains.
According to a 2021 article in the Journal of International Food & Agribusiness Marketing, “Egg manufacturers suspect that plant-based eggs may copy the nutrients and function of all eggs, although they are struggling to provide an alternative to people who do not consume eggs.” “Egg industries do not see plant-based eggs as potential competitors to their products.”
Atchison said it doesn’t have to be a direct competition.
“Is there a way for these products to coexist to build a more sustainable food system?” said. “Egg producers are seeing the same things we’ve been talking about: the need to diversify their dietary sources, lower their carbon footprint, and add resilience to food production.”
As overall plant-based sales begin to flatten out and the industry matures, “there is work to be done,” Atchison said.
“It’s plant-based trying to work in a system built around the food that was available at the time long ago,” he said. “We think and are committed to how to appeal to a generation that has yet to decide how it relates to food, and to offer great products that aren’t just what they’re used to eating.”