Plant-based eggs are starting to compete with the real thing

An egg substitute sourced from beans.
An egg substitute sourced from beans.
Image: Photo courtesy of JUST.
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The change was swift. In only the last few years, plant-based foods have suddenly snapped up market share in both the dairy and meat markets with alternative versions of milks, yogurts, and convincing faux beef patties.

They’re popular insurgents, this band of peas, coconuts, cashews, bananas, almonds, oats, and soy. As grocery store upstarts move into new aisles, they’re igniting plant-based coups that have reshaped supermarket economics.

Now, the humble mung bean has set up camp in the egg section, and it’s starting to make some noise.

When people buy eggs at the grocery store, they typically choose the kind that come in shells. Liquid eggs—the kind that come in cartons, yolked or yolkless—are very much a smaller category. But in that smaller pool of competitors, the plant-based liquid egg alternative created by one Silicon Valley-based company, JUST, is performing pretty well.

According to Chicago-based market research company IRI, JUST’s mung bean liquid egg product, JUST Egg, is at least the second-best performing in the category.

The company’s product is driving the greatest sales growth in the US liquid egg market, even as many of its competitors have lost traction, according to IRI data. It’s still more expensive than its competitors, but the texture, taste, and overall cooking experience is reportedly convincing. JUST founder and CEO Josh Tetrick claims his company has sold the plant-based equivalent of 10 million eggs since the launch of the new product in December 2017, and he’s hopeful that it’ll claim even more dominance in the space.

It likely will. JUST today announced its egg product is being picked up by one of America’s largest national grocery retailers, Kroger. The JUST Egg will be pushed into 2,100 of Kroger’s stores. That includes a few grocery brands owned by Kroger, such as Ralphs, Fred Meyer, and QFC. It’s already on the shelves of major store brands such as Safeway, Wegmans, Giant, Winn Dixie, and Albertsons.

The mung bean-based egg is one of the products JUST has been looking to develop since the company’s inception in 2011 (back then, it operated under the name Hampton Creek). The product remained elusive for the company for years: Its line of vegan eggless mayonnaise and cookie doughs came first.

To create its newest product, JUST essentially de-hulls and mills mung beans to produce a bean flour. According to Food Navigator, the company’s food scientists mix the flour with “water and a food-grade de-foaming agent to form a slurry,” which undergoes pH adjustments and extractions until they isolate a protein ‘curd’ that can go into all kinds of products, including the liquid eggs. The product’s full ingredients list can be found on the company website.

The mung bean isn’t just making waves in American retail outlets. The Canadian quick-service restaurant, Tim Hortons, is now serving up the liquid egg alternative in at least 60 of its locations. JUST spokesman Andrew Noyes says the company is also speaking to several large national quick-service restaurant brands in the US, though he would not name any of them.

JUST launched the product in China in May. It’s now available on e-commerce platforms and many retail locations in cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.