A baker’s secret to affordable, healthy and sustainable treats
Around the world, the aroma of freshly made bread and other baked goods is irresistible to most people. The delicious smell and taste of freshly baked goods is the result of a complex baking process that involves the interaction of various ingredients.
Exquisitely simple, yet enormously complex, the egg is one of nature’s marvels and a common ingredient in many products, such as cakes, pastries, meringues, macaroons, custard fillings, quiches, and pancakes. But just how vital is it in baked goods?
Besides being highly nutritious, eggs play a crucial role in binding, leavening, tenderizing, and emulsifying bakery goods due to their unique properties in emulsification, coagulation, foaming, and structure formation. It’s an open secret among bakers that without eggs, achieving the desired volume, texture, flavor, and color in baked goods is almost impossible.
Why eggs are becoming unpopular
However, there is an increasing demand for and interest in substituting eggs. Health issues such as phenylketonuria and egg allergies, as well as concerns about cholesterol, have long been a motivation for egg substitution. Their influence on bakery formulation has risen in prominence in the recent past as a response to increased consumer demand for better-for-you products. “The baking industry needs to adapt and cater to this demand as more people no longer see food as merely a source for nutrition, but also see it as an active contributor to better health,” Nicola Weldon, strategy director at Kerry said.
Additionally, dietary preferences like vegan or vegetarian lifestyles, as well as religious beliefs are further accelerating the transition towards egg-free baked products. Rising prices of poultry feeds and market instability have also added wood to the fire. Rabobank’s global egg price monitor reached a new record in Q1 2023, with the index now peaking above 250, which means prices are 2.5 times higher than the reference year of 2007 and have increased more than 100% since this time last year. With prices more than doubling, Nicola Weldon, strategy director at Kerry in a recent address said that solutions now need to guard against high or volatile raw materials prices to keep baked goods affordable for consumers and ensure that bakers can earn profits.
The convergence of the above factors has resulted in rapid growth of the egg substitute market. Brandessence Market Research predicts that the global egg substitute market, previously valued at US$1.92 Billion in 2021, is projected to reach US$3.07 Billion by 2028, exhibiting a CAGR of 6.90%.
Brandessence market research predicts that the global egg substitute market, previously valued at us$1.92 billion in 2021, will grow to reach us$43.07 billion in 2028, exhibiting
A cagr of 6.9% during the forecast period.
Egg substitutes promise stability
Egg replacers offer a strong argument for bakers aiming to address rising raw material costs while also providing additional benefits. These substitutes not only offer cost advantages but also open up new possibilities for marketing products to individuals with egg allergies or those seeking plant-based alternatives. This was not always the case. Nicole Atchison, CEO of AcreMade admits that when they first launched their egg replacers, price was not their greatest selling point. “We’ve been able to improve our price competitiveness and as prices are today, we’re incredibly competitive, if not cheaper than your top-of-the-line eggs,” she adds.
AcreMade is a subsidiary of PURIS, a leading supplier of pea protein in North America. The company makes egg replacers from Upcycled Certified pea starch for use in the bakery industry. The bakery replacer has been formulated to deliver the foaming and emulsification properties of an egg in bakery applications. Atchison says that they have been able to demonstrate these capabilities in sponge cakes, cheesecakes, muffins, and all standard bakery recipes.
Ulrick & Short also has a new ingredient called ovaprox 14 that can act as a complete functional egg replacer for various sweet-bakery applications. According to NPD technologist Tom Bull, who developed the new product, the product can be used in sweet baked goods like muffins and sponges, providing not just the volume rise, but also a good and consistent crumb structure.
Clean label ingredients specialist Kröner-Stärke also has a number of all-natural egg replacement products. The REGG-EX range is based on raw materials produced out of selected wheat flours and comprises three reduction levels, depending on the customer’s desired application, including star (up to 30%/40%); sol (up to 30%-100%); and 100 (up to 100%). The products can be used for a wide spectrum of end products, such as sponge cakes and muffins, as well as yeast-based items like brioches and milk rolls. “We have already supplied our egg replacer to a well-known frozen bakery company who was able to achieve an excellent end-product with the desired texture,” said Maren Finke, KrönerStärke’s product development technician. “A further example involved supplying REGG-EX as 100% egg replacement for a European producer of milk bread rolls – again with outstanding results.”
Not a one man job
Finding something that would work as a perfect substitute is a challenge because there’s no one ingredient that will substitute in its entirety for the action of eggs. When soy protein is for instance added to cake batter, the viscosity increases since soy protein absorbs lots of water, which can extend shelf life. However, this also leads to more air being incorporated into the batter. As the cake undergoes processing, the gas produced by the chemical leavening causes these air cells to grow too big and collapse.
When used together with an emulsifier, this viscosity is much less as the emulsifier allows for smaller oil droplets in the batter which helps to better distribute the water and oil throughout the mixture, leading to cake batters with a better specific gravity which eventually results in a cake with a better final crumb structure than when either product is used alone.
Success with soybean and emulsifiers proved that innovatively blending various ingredients has a better chance of producing alternatives with the same natural capabilities as eggs than a single ingredient. This knowledge has led to other interesting formulations. Ground flaxseed or potato starch has for instance been found to mimic the binding capabilities of an egg, while other additions like soybean or milk proteins replicate egg’s structure-building characteristics.
An example is Ener-G egg replacer, which combines potato starch, tapioca starch flour, and a leavening agent to replicate the binding and expanding properties of eggs in baked goods. This versatile egg replacer works well for cookies, cakes, brownies, pancakes, waffles, and muffins. The icing on the cake is that Ener-G is gluten-free, kosher-certified, cost-effective, and user-friendly.
Other examples using this approach are Gluten-free Namaste egg substitute, which contains tapioca and arrowroot starches, citrus fiber, cream of tartar, and sodium bicarbonate, and Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer which is comprised of wheat and soy. The latter is said to be perfect for light and fluffy pancakes and waffles and binds ingredients in baked goods such as muffins, cookies, and brownies while adding moisture.
Lupini beans are also emerging as promising alternatives to eggs. They offer several advantages: they are easier to cultivate, have a lower environmental impact compared to chicken egg farms, and are an abundant source of protein, amino acids, fiber, and minerals. Hamburg-based Plant B launched its lupin-based liquid egg alternative PLANT B Egg in April 2022. The product is a 100% plant-based alternative for scrambled eggs, cakes, waffles, or quiches making it a very good choice for bakers targeting health-conscious flexitarians and vegans alike.
Egg replacers also utilize hydrocolloids and emulsifiers to improve the quality of eggless baked products, especially cakes. Hydrocolloids have gel-forming properties and increase the integrity of gas cell walls, while emulsifiers interact with starch, prevent amylose leaching, influence starch retrogradation, and increase the formation and stabilization of air bubbles. To introduce more color, beta-carotene could be added but again, this adds to the list of ingredients on packaging, potentially deterring consumers seeking ‘clean label’ products.
Those with no desire for plant-based alternative can explore precision fermentation which is also emerging as an alternative process to producing food sustainably. One of the players in the egg-replacement field is French company Algama which uses precision fermentation to produce microalgae-based egg-replacers under the Talgama brand which can be used in a number of baked products including brioches, biscuits, cookies, and donuts. A more notable brand in the precision fermentation scene is Perfect Day whose whey protein isolate from fermentation known as ProFerm is used to make an egg Replacer that can fully replace eggs in cakes, muffins, cookies, and any other baked good that requires whole eggs. “In our Egg Replacer, ProFerm™ functions as a foaming, water-binding, and elastic agent, delivering improved flavor, color, and texture over egg alternatives,” Perfect day says on its website. “Its functionality lends to optimal cake height and a fine balance of tenderness and springiness, while improving the nutritional value of baked goods compared to existing alternatives.”
No forward-thinking baker can afford to ignore
With egg prices hitting the roof, no forward-looking baker can afford to ignore egg replacers and the opportunities they present beyond raw material cost stabilization. In egg replacers, bakers fined a supply-chain stable, providing a reliable and consistent ingredient for businesses to use across their portfolio.
Unlike eggs, replacers are also ingredients of the future as they cater for today’s needs for products that are animal-free and sustainably sourced, two things that are increasingly becoming important to consumers. According to a recent survey from McKinsey & Co., 66% of all respondents and 75% of millennial respondents say that they consider sustainability when they make a purchase. With egg replacement, bakers have a higher chance of attracting these consumers. A study on UK vegan bakery brand OGGS revealed that its cakes which were egg-free had a carbon impact that was 72% smaller when compared to standardized eggs. While the transition to cage-free eggs can lead to increased expenses, utilizing egg replacers offers a financially efficient pathway to transitioning towards animal-friendly food production systems by eliminating the reliance on eggs.
Beyond sustainability, the plant-based bakery sector is on the rise with the release of products featuring a vegan or plant-based claim growing by 28.55% year-on-year according to Innova Market Insights. Demand is driven by perception that plant-based diets are healthier compared to meat-based alternatives. These beliefs are not unfounded as a study on one egg replacement came to show. According to the study, when OGGS Aquafaba is used in a Lemon Sponge recipe (comparing one egg for one equivalent amount of aquafaba in a 100g portion), there is a 10% reduction in saturated fats and a 5% reduction in calories. The egg replacer was also found to contains 85% fewer calories than hen’s eggs, 96% less saturated fat and packed in 88% less salt than egg.
Very few problems have silver bullet solutions, but in the current egg supply crisis, replacers certainly come close. They are a revolutionary innovation that provides exceptional taste, performance, and functionality with the benefit of a more predictable supply chain. They are certainly the future of baking and only non-forward-looking bakers can afford to ignore them.