The Tomilino egg processing plant - owned by the Tomilinskaya poultry processing firm - began producing powdered egg white and yolk in October 2004 in a bid to tap into the growing demand for the protein-rich ingredient.
The company had previously produced simple powdered eggs - popular among Russian consumers in the winter months - mainly for companies in the bakery industry (where it is used in pastry, dough and other basic products), the meat industry (where it is used to make paté and stuffing) and edible oils, where the egg powder is used to make mayonnaise and emulsions.
But Tomilino saw that there was strong demand for egg white, in particular among its bakery and edible oils customers, not least because there are few Russian suppliers of quality ingredients able to provide egg white in sufficiently large quantities, the company's spokesman Arthur Mirzoyan told CEE-foodindustry.com at the Ingredients Russia 2004 exhibition in Moscow last week.
. So, investing in a new production line from Italy which allowed it to process the white and yolk separately for the first time, the company launched into a new market, with instant success. But as demand for the egg white began to grow, and the company's profits with it, Tomilino realised that it was harder to find buyers for the powdered yolk.
Kirill Lazarev, deputy director of Tomilino TPK, said: "The peculiarity of the market is such that manufacturers always need more egg white than yolk, but eggs contain three times as much yolk as white. So for every ton of liquid egg, we end up with 62kg of dried egg white and 160kg of dried yolk. In other words, we produce three times as much powdered yolk as white, contrary to what the market requires.
"It is pointless to increase our production volumes to meet demand for egg white because that means we would produce even more dried egg yolk, for which there is no use."
Furthermore, demand for powdered egg -whether white or yolk - varies according to the time of year. Tomilinkskaya sells 1.5 times more powdered egg products in December than in July, for example, with Russians traditionally using egg powders in the winter months when fresh egg production drops.
This problem of what to do with the powdered yolk continues to haunt Tomilino and ROSKAR, the St Petersburg company which is the only other producer of quality egg ingredients in Russia, and finding a solution will be vital if both companies are to successfully exploit the obvious demand for white egg powder.
Some comfort can be taken from the fact that the powdered yolk has a much longer shelf life, and can be stored for some considerable time before use, but this of course requires sufficient storage space, an additional cost for companies. Yet with egg white quantities remaining insufficient to meet demand, and companies keen to tap into that lucrative situation, it is hard to envisage a time when yolk stocks will not continue to grow, increasing storage costs.
Nonetheless, ZAO Tomilinskaya will continue to produce powdered egg white, at a rate of around five tons per month, because demand is simply so high. But with some 60 tons a month of powdered yolk to find buyers for, it is unclear how long the company can continue in this niche, no matter how profitable.