Kerry exec sheds light on global egg price hikes amid avian flu outbreaks, industry alternatives spotlighted
16 May 2022 --- The egg industry has suffered significant disruption recently, leading to dramatic price increases globally. Jacques Georis, global R&D director for Enzymes & Fermentation at Kerry, speaks to FoodIngredientsFirst about how this has impacted manufacturers looking for cost-optimized and price-stable solutions.
Meanwhile, Kerry is ramping up efforts to meet the increasing demands for more ethical and sustainable sourcing for egg replacement ingredients.
Initially, the price of eggs soared in part because of an outbreak of avian flu in the US that has infected nearly 27 million chickens and turkeys, Georis explains. “According to USDA, the average weekly price of large eggs is up 44% compared to last year.”
“In addition to higher prices for a carton of a dozen eggs, consumers are expected to experience considerably higher prices for all baked goods and a wide variety of processed foods,” he underscores.
Global crisis exasperates
Like the US, France is facing an avian flu crisis, with cullings topping more than 12 million birds.
The virus hit all countries in the 27-member European Union except Malta and Cyprus, with Italy also suffering the most severe damage.
According to data from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), outbreaks had almost ended in each country by March, apart from France.
“At the start of the year, experts predicted that egg prices would have stabilized throughout 2022. However, European egg prices have increased by as much as 43% per 100 kg of eggs year-on-year,” explains Georis.
“In France, bakers, pâtissiers and restaurants have all been hit with up to 50% price increases due to rising egg costs.”
British egg farmers are also facing unprecedented rises in the cost of producing eggs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – up to a 30% increase on some farms – leaving many on the brink of bankruptcy, as previously reported by FoodIngredientsFirst.
With British farmers losing money on every egg they produce, many choose to stop producing rather than losing their farms, resulting in falling numbers of hens in the UK and increasing pressure on supply.
Egg replacements necessary
Meanwhile, concerns about animal welfare and sustainability and egg allergies and cost are making egg replacements and reduction imperative for F&B brands.
“Individual consumers, regulators and animal welfare groups are becoming increasingly vocal and influential about the ethical treatment of hens – global retailers have taken actions against selling eggs from caged hens,” notes Georis.
He adds that the rising interest in alternative egg solutions has been accelerated by proposed EU legislation to ban cages in animal agriculture by 2027.
“Furthermore, the growing consumer demand for vegan products is also a major contributing factor to the egg-free movement, with 24% of consumers now actively looking for ‘vegan-friendly’ claims on food and beverage products, as highlighted by Innova Market Insights.”
A boost for bakery?
Notably, bakery is the main category seeing the most demand for egg alternatives. In particular, one of the areas that has experienced a significant drive for egg replacers is in clean label formulations, especially sweet baked goods and chemically leavened cakes, reveals Kerry.
However, eggs are a challenging ingredient to replace in baked foods, Georis flags. “The main protein in eggs, albumin, is especially challenging to replicate,” he comments. “It provides the necessary structure for high-sugar recipes to sustain the weight of sugar and shortening. For this reason, replacing 100% of egg content proves to be challenging, and a reduction of egg content instead is the most viable solution.”
“Eggs’ wide range of functionalities, providing structure, texture, emulsification, color and flavor, makes it nearly impossible to find one ingredient that can do it all. Much of this is done through systems of ingredients working together to replicate the functionality that eggs bring to a specific product.”
When eggs are removed from a bakery formulation, each of the relevant functionalities would need to be compensated. “Kerry has the potential to replace egg in formulations depending on the functionality,” Georis notes.
“Having said that, not all recipes are difficult to reformulate. Bread, cookies and some specific chemical leavened cakes all rely less on eggs than other products. Yeast-leavened products, in particular, don’t need eggs for rising, so replacing them isn’t as challenging.”
“The majority of cakes, on the other hand, are some of the most difficult products to reformulate because they depend on eggs for so many different functions.”
Viscosity, specific density and emulsification of the batter, and specific volume, resilience, crumb structure, and moistness in the cake are all factors adding complexity to the egg replacement process in chemically leavened products, he details.
With this, industry players are ramping up their efforts to develop egg alternatives as demand continues to soar.
Last month, Eat Just’s key ingredient – mung bean protein – received approval from the European Commission. The landmark approval for this ingredient paves the way for the launch of its JUST Egg product in Europe in the fourth quarter of this year.
Evo Foods and Ginkgo Bioworks recently partnered to create a novel method for producing animal-free egg proteins for use in Evo’s products. Evo Foods will leverage Ginkgo’s cell engineering capabilities to explore recombinant production methods for egg proteins.
The EVERY Company recently launched its animal-free, nature-equivalent egg protein – Every ClearEgg and Nabati Foods Global filed new patents for its plant-based egg product, Nabati Plant Eggz. These have been registered in Canada, the US and Australia.
Kerry’s innovation pipeline
According to Georis, Kerry’s Enzyme Technology Biobake LP can help reduce egg content by up to 20% in baked goods, allowing manufacturers to achieve price stability and cost optimization and actively deliver on their sustainability agenda by reducing CO2 emissions and land use.
“This enzymatic solution is one of few existing in the market, some of which are patent protected. Due diligence must be carried out to ensure freedom to operate in specific countries and relevant applications.”
Biobake LP hydrolyses specific phospholipids in egg yolk, which change their molecular structure and, as a result, enhances their emulsification properties. “This mode of action enables the reduction of eggs without compromising the final product quality,” Georis details.
Most egg reduction or replacement relies on a custom blend of ingredients, so bakers will work closely with ingredient suppliers to mimic the functionality lost when eggs are removed.
“Each formulation we work with is different, meaning there isn’t a one-size-fits-all option. For example, we can achieve a great structure with a whey protein, but sometimes the emulsification is missing,” Georis concludes.
By Elizabeth Green
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