Egg Replacements Still on the Agenda in Avian Flu Aftermath (Food Ingredients First)

By February 1, 2016In the News

Egg Replacements Still on the Agenda in Avian Flu Aftermath (Food Ingredients First)
01 Feb 2016 — The 2015 outbreak of avian influenza in the US had a detrimental effect on egg supply globally, leading to a surge in prices and subsequent reformulation. While supply is reportedly back on track now after a tumultuous six months, the crisis forced industry to look to alternative to eggs, such as whey.

Reformulation has occurred and the question is now whether manufacturers will switch back to their original egg-containing recipes. Together with a trend towards cost reduction, manufacturers are also catering to the vegan trend, which requires the removal of egg from formulations.

The American Egg Board (AEB) is the U.S egg producers’ communications link to food processors and during the outbreak of bird flu, many egg product companies feared the worst and consumers saw a sharp increase in price as a result of this.

The Egg Industry Center in Ames, Iowa reported that half of the laying hens lost in 2015 are already replaced and if recovery continues at the current rate by midyear 2016 the flocks should all be at or at least near to 100 percent pre-outbreak levels.

A number of factors are at play in the supply rebound beyond affected farms repopulating. Egg imports, fewer exports and unaffected farms increasing production have all contributed to help with the supply gap.

John Howeth, Senior Vice President of Foodservice & Egg Product Marketing, American Egg Board, told FoodingredientsFirst: “Recovery from last year’s outbreak continues as previously forecast. We remain cautiously optimistic as we look forward to spring.”

FoodIngredientsFirst spoke with Brock Lundberg, President of R&D, Fiberstar: “The egg shortage definitely perked customers’ interest and as a result generated business. This interest ranges across several food applications such as baked goods, spreads and dressings.”

Howeth believes it is difficult to mirror the functional properties of eggs: “A single ingredient cannot replace the multiple functional properties of real eggs. The egg supplies more than 20 different functional benefits to food formulators, including binding, aeration, emulsification and coagulation to name a few. Replacing these multiple functions with a single ingredient is not a likely possibility on a large scale.”

John Gelley, US Sales Manager, Arla Foods Ingredients spoke to FoodIngredientsFirst about the avian flu crisis: “We were mindful of the terrible impact that the US avian flu crisis was having on the livelihoods of egg producers. Under the circumstances, our main focus was simply on helping bakery companies by providing continuity of supply in a very uncertain market.”

Gelley adds: “There was indeed a surge in enquiries relating to our Nutrilac whey protein-based egg replacers. We attracted new customers, and many of our existing customers extended the use of Nutrilac egg replacers into more of their product formulas. However, we are focused on demonstrating that Nutrilac egg replacers offer benefits to bakers at all times – not just when there is a problem in the market.”

Gelley goes on to explain that egg replacement in bakery has always been very important: “It’s something that we have focused on for more than twelve years. At Arla we have put a considerable investment into this field over the years in time, innovation and resource and it’s important to us to see the positive return on that investment. Constant innovation has been the key and the success of egg replacers allows us to continue to invest and innovate.”

“Several months on from the crisis, and we can see that our business has grown as a direct consequence of the egg shortages and dramatic price increases that resulted,” Gelley states. “However, this has also been testament to the work we had done previously in the market – before avian flu struck – to demonstrate the benefits of using our products in place of eggs in bakery products. This meant that bakers already knew that our products are 100% natural and do not impact negatively on product quality. Using Nutrilac egg replacers was the obvious step for them to take, in order to secure supplies of the ingredients they needed to maintain production,” he adds.

In light of all this, there was a shift in demand for egg replacement products which have proven to be a worthy challenger, in this field.

There is a whole industry of suppliers who specialize in egg replacement products, each looking closely at the properties and formulations that eggs bring to cooking.

Not only this, there has been an increase in demand for egg replacements products for people who specifically follow vegan diets. Whether this is down to ethics or health reasons, there’s no doubt there has been a significant rise the need for animal free produce. It has become apparent that many vegans don’t want to sacrifice their favorite foods; thus seeking what options have become available to them.

FoodIngredientsFirst spoke with Jane Easton, Food and Cookery Coodinator at Viva, a charity that exposes animal cruelty and supports people who want to make changes to their diet. She says: “I think the demand came mainly from ethical vegans although some of it may have been from health vegans or others wanting to cut out animal products.”

Easton adds: “There is a growing demographic for egg free products across the world – UK, USA, Israel and Germany but many other countries are seeing a huge rise in the demand for vegan and free from products – and with it, a decline in consumption of certain meats, dairy and other animal products.”

“Aquafaba (the brine from chickepeas), has become hugely popular in vegan and egg allergic circles in just a few months,” says Easton, “It’s fast becoming the next big thing as its protein component offers similar qualities to eggs or egg whites. Also, it’s cheap and derived directly from cooked chickpeas so it’s a plant source and very ecological as well as healthier than eggs. There has been some talk about it being sold commercially – either in liquid or dried form,” Easton adds.

FoodIngredientsFirst spoke with Naomi Haynes, manager and nutrition adviser at GoodDirect. Their ethos is to deliver a range of free from, organic, fresh and fairly traded food that can be delivered to the UK and Europe.

Haynes says: “We sell two types of egg replacer, Orgran No Egg 200g and Ener-G Egg Replacer 454g. Our most popular one is by far the Orgran brand. However since 2014, demand for both have gone down, though only slightly,” Haynes adds, “It may be to do with the fact that they can now be easily sourced in supermarkets but also because people are becoming increasingly aware that there are easy, cheaper and more importantly, natural ways of replacing eggs such as with bananas and chia seeds.”

“Overall, there is a relatively big demand for egg replacers, powdered or natural, and part of this is that people are becoming more aware of their allergies and intolerances, but mostly due to the growth of veganism,” she adds.

Lundberg (Fiberstar) also believes that the demand for egg replacement stems from the specialty diet segment: “Gluten-free formulating still avoid the use of eggs within their products due to allergen concerns. The growing plant-based diet trend is creating the need for vegetarian or vegan formulated products.”

Lundberg says: “There is continuous interest in the Citri-Fi egg replacement portfolio due to the uncertain egg market and specialty diets. Though egg prices have reduced and stabilized, there are market activities affecting this long-term stability such as the risk of future Avian flu outbreaks.”

“We have several customers that have requested samples and are in the process of commercializing products with Citri-Fi, a natural citrus fiber, due to its partial egg replacement functionality and significant cost savings benefit,” he adds.

“Citri-Fi 125 and Citri-Fi 200 products are the most common egg replacement products in Fiberstar’s product portfolio,” Lundberg says. “They are made by a proprietary process starting with orange peels and pulp. This novel process increases the fiber’s surface area, hence enhancing the water, oil, and emulsification properties which are key attributes when replacing egg components,” he adds. “The Citri 125 series is ideal to replace up to 20% egg within baked goods while maintaining superior texture. The Citri-Fi 200 series can replace egg components within baked goods, dairy desserts and meat products such as meat loaf. Alternatively, the Citri-Fi 300M40 specialty citrus fiber blend can replace up to 100% egg in mayo dressings while providing natural emulsification stabilization and creamy mouthfeel,” says Lundberg.

“Citri-Fi, a non-GMO citrus fiber, is natural, non-allergenic and supports a clean label declaration – citrus fiber,” Lundberg adds, “Citri-Fi contains both soluble and insoluble fiber which contributes fiber to the nutrition statement. Since Citri-Fi does not contain cholesterol, which is naturally found in eggs, replacing eggs with Citri-Fi reduces overall cholesterol content which is ideal for those consumers abiding to specific heart healthy diets. As a result, using Citri-Fi also reduces caloric content.”

Substituting eggs in baking
Campden BRI provides help and support to the baking sector with ingredient suitability, product formulation and processing conditions, to ensure baked products meet the highest possible standards.

Campden BRI quotes: “Substituting eggs in baking can be a challenging task. It is extremely hard to find one ingredient that can match all the beneficial properties of the egg and it is almost impossible to find an ingredient that will replicate the structural benefits of whipped egg whites. While there are some good egg substitutes available on the market, there is no single egg alternative that provides all the functionality and natural capabilities of the egg itself. It’s normally necessary to add more functional ingredients when using egg substitutes.”

FoodIngredientsFirst spoke with Sarab Sahi and Gary Tucker Campden BRI. Tucker explains: “Egg is a multifunctional raw material which provides aeration, flavor and color, and emulsifying, structure forming and moisturizing properties. Reduction or removal of egg from the recipe would impact on all these functions, making it difficult to produce a satisfactory product.”

Sahi adds: “The route to overcome some or all the loss in functionality would depend on the product being made. In general, to replace the functionality of the egg proteins, materials such as whey and soy proteins can be used as these can provide structure building in the cake as well as contributing to aeration and emulsifying properties during mixing. However, the moistness due to the yolk components would not be replaced by the use of proteins. A more suitable material to replace moistness as well as aeration and emulsifying properties would be lecithin which occurs naturally in plants and animal tissues and which incidentally can be extracted commercially from egg yolk amongst other things.”

“Replacing egg is a similar challenge to reducing sugar. You could draw the analogy to sugar reduction in which sugar has at least seven major functions in baked products. Hence sugar replacement results in more ingredients on the declaration, and the same is true for egg replacers. Each one of the functions tends to require one ingredient. Not all of them will be from a natural source as is the case with egg,” Tucker says.

Gelley of Arla Foods Ingredients says: “Matching the functionality of eggs and more so, egg whites, is not a simple task by any means – having 1,000’s of different bakery formula’s around the globe certainly gives us a few challenges, however, Arla have an excellent technical resource made up of people who are experts in their field and not only understand the way in which our products function, but understand the way in which they react with other ingredients.”

“At Arla we create products that really work,” Gelley adds, “We are able to match completely, the functionality of eggs in the baking process – we replace protein with protein and lipids with lipids (i.e. not with starches & gum systems).”

“Not all whey proteins are created as equals. AFI proteins for egg replacement are specifically designed & manufactured as ‘blends’ for the actual task in hand – you can buy a standard whey protein concentrate from any dairy company but it cannot be used to replace eggs. Our products contain a very similar protein to that found in egg whites, we also have the emulsification and lipids found in yolks but without the saturated fats and the cholesterol,” Gelley states.

“Eggs are multi-functional, depending on what’s required. Not only can we replicate the functionality of eggs, it is well documented that using our products can actually improve, for example, cakes, in several ways including a softer mouthfeel, improved freshness over life, added resilience without toughening, improved volume without drying out for example,” Gelley adds.

“Undoubtedly, some customers will revert back to eggs, however, many customers are telling us that they are planning on staying with us long term because they do not want to be in a similar position the next time a crises happens,” he says.

The egg replacement wave has gathered pace and manufacturers will be looking for ingredient suppliers with suitable cost effective solutions in their reformulation efforts.

by Elizabeth Kenward