The vegan egg comes in the form of a ready-to-eat product. It is made from a combination of flours from various legumes, vegetable oils, a gelling agent and a vegan salt.
Developed by four students working on their master's degrees in food science and technology- Francesca Zuccolo, Greta Titton, Arianna Roi and Aurora Gobessi - it is the hundredth patent registered by the University, Udine noted in a statement.
The development followed a year-and-a-half of research in the laboratories of the department of agro-food, environment and animal science at Udine.
According to the students, they had to overcome a number of challenges to produce the final product, including technological issues and ingredient choice.
“Numerous tests” were required to achieve the “optimum formulation” in terms of “consistency and taste”, they noted.
The egg is cholesterol-free and gluten-free and would, therefore, be suitable for people who suffer hypercholesterolemia or coeliac disease, as well as consumers who want to reduce or exclude animal-derived products from their diets. It can also be manufactured from organic ingredients, the students suggested.
The University plans to present the product to companies who may be interested in acquiring the patent-protected process “in the coming weeks”.
Rising European demand for plant-based foods
Sales of plant-based foods are rising in Europe, with demand growth supported by ethical and environmental concerns, health and wellness trends, increased availability and improved consumer perceptions of product quality.
According to forecasts from research firm Allied Market Research, the global meat substitutes market is expected to grow by around 8.4% through to 2020. Europe is the largest market for meat substitutes accounting for 39% of global sales.
Globally, European food makers are leading the way in terms of meat-free innovation.
Data from Mintel shows that seven out of the top ten markets for alternative protein product launches are European. “In the three years ending June 2017, Germany led global innovation in meat substitutes, followed by France, Sweden, Italy and the UK. However, Germany’s share of innovation declined in the year ending June 2017 as innovation intensified in Sweden and Italy,” Mintel analyst Patty Johnson revealed.
In Italy, Johnson said the uptick in NPD activity is a result of massive increases in consumers who claim to be working to reduce their meat consumption. Around half of Italian consumers say they are lowering their red meat intake, while 24% say they are increasing the amount of vegetarian processed foods in their diet, she noted.
Meanwhile, in Sweden, the demand driver is retail-based, Johnson continued. “In 2016, two of Sweden’s largest supermarket retailers, Coop and ICA, launched campaigns aimed at increasing consumer awareness around the environmental impact of eating meat, while also promoting the uptake of meat alternatives as healthier and more humane,” she explained.