18 August 2018 | Online since 2003

2 July 2018

Egg industry sees threat of 'eggless' alternatives as a serious challenge

Food industry observers have warned that the egg industry should view the rise of alternatives as a serious challenge

Food giant Arla says it has developed a calculator to show bakers how they could save money by using alternatives to eggs.

Arla Foods Ingredients, which is part of the huge co-operative Arla Foods, produces its own egg replacement made from whey protein.

And it is telling bakers that they can overcome price volatility and potentially save money in the egg market by ditching eggs in favour of the eggless alternative.

However, Ian Jones, the chairman of British Lion egg processors, says there is simply no replacement for the real thing.

"Egg replacers have never taken off on any significant scale because egg is a lot more versatile and almost always performs better," he said.

Food industry observers have been warning that the egg industry should view the rise of alternatives to egg products as a serious challenge.

Professor David Hughes, who is emeritus professor of food marketing at Imperial College, London, and visiting professor at Royal Agricultural University, has warned about the increasing threat from alternative foods.

'Very concerned'

At an International Egg Commission conference in Warsaw, Katherine Bryar, senior global future creations manager at Arla Foods, warned the egg industry that it should be “very concerned” about the threat posed by egg-free alternatives.

She said that the American company Hampton Creek was one of a number of companies developing egg-free alternative products that could threaten the egg market.

Hampton Creek is the company that launched Just Mayo, an egg-free alternative to mayonnaise. The food giant Unilever, the manufacturer of Hellmann’s mayonnaise, originally threatened legal action against Hampton Creek, claiming that the company's labelling was misleading because the product did not contain eggs.

Unilever insisted that Hampton Creek should stop calling its product Just Mayo, remove it from stores and pay Unilever damages worth three times Hampton Creek’s profits. However, Unilever subsequently dropped the legal action.

More recently Hampton Creek has launched an alternative to scrambled eggs. It is made with mung beans. Hampton Creek co-founder and chief executive Josh Tetrick has openly declared his intention to “take hens out of food production.”


Now, Arla Foods Ingredients is citing recent volatility in the egg market as a reason for bakers to consider egg alternatives.

It said that a number of events had impacted on market conditions. In 2017 and 2018, scares in the US and Europe involving salmonella and the chemical fipronil (a banned chemical found to have been used in a red mite treatment for layers in continental Europe) had caused big fluctuations in supply levels and prices.

Arla said that outbreaks of avian flu in Mexico, America and Asia between 2013 and 2016 had also taken their toll, creating a highly uncertain environment for cake manufacturers in particular.

Looking forward, there were fears that the EU could place import levies on egg powder in 2019, which would most likely exacerbate the situation for bakers, it said.

Arla Foods Ingredients markets Nutrilac - a product that is designed to replace up to 50 per cent of the eggs in a cake recipe. Arla says it is a protein that offers "a natural, safe and highly functional solution to egg market volatility."

It guarantees security of supply and stable pricing, thereby delivering greater control over raw material costs, says the company.

Arla said it substituted as many as 300 million eggs last year and expected to record higher levels of demand during the current year.

Aparecido Silveira, industry marketing manager for bakery at Arla Foods Ingredients said: “The benefits of Nutrilac whey protein egg replacers mean that bakers don’t need to put all their eggs in one basket.

“They can better protect themselves against the unpredictability of the global egg market and, in doing so, harness the application and quality gains that our proteins deliver.”

'Real eggs'

But Ian Jones, the chairman of British Lion egg processors, insisted that real eggs were still the best option for bakers.

“Whether food manufacturers need to add richness, increase the volume of cakes or apply a glaze, there is no substitute for the real thing. Egg replacers have never taken off on any significant scale because egg is a lot more versatile and almost always performs better. There are also no long lists of unfamiliar ingredients to add to packaging, which there are with some egg replacers."

He said prices in the egg market were generally a function of supply and demand, with resultant gentle rises and falls in prices over time.

The UK industry was well placed to meet the rising demand for British eggs, including post-Brexit, when it expected demand for real British eggs to increase further. The industry had, in preparation, already increased the size of the UK flock by more than 15 per cent.

He said many manufacturers had long–term contracts with British Lion egg processors, which guaranteed not only top quality ingredients but also stability of supply.


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