The team behind Zero Egg have developed a plant-based egg alternative for the food industry. The ‘all-purpose’ product can be used to replace eggs in omelettes, baked goods, pasta, and sauces.
While the idea for the start-up sprung from a specific industrial need, it has since developed into a global mission: to help make current animal-based foods ‘the alternative’, co-founder and CEO Liron Nimrodi told FoodNavigator.
From industrial beginnings
While working in the food industry, co-founder Amiel David observed a need for a versatile egg replacement. Food safety certainly played a role in this – whether that be related to pathogenic issues, allergens, or risks associated with the handling and storage of liquids.
The price fluctuation of eggs was also a factor, co-founder Nimrodi recounted during a catch-up at The Kitchen Food Tech Hub in Israel. Having noted these motivations, ‘the Zero Egg idea was initiated’.
The rising demand for plant-based products has since propelled the start-up towards another objective, stressed Nimrodi. “Our mission is to make plant-based foods the obvious choice, so that we will have food that is good for animals, for the environment, and for the people.”
“We’re going to make plant-based foods accessible, flavourful, nutritious, affordable, less polluting, less wasteful, and most importantly, harmless to animals and people. That should be enough to tip the scale, to transform the alternative to become the main ingredient of our daily diet and make the current animal-based foods – the alternative” – Zero Egg.
‘Tastes, looks and functions like a real egg’
The start-up formed in 2018 under the guidance of The Kitchen Food Tech Hub – a food tech accelerator created by the Strauss Group in collaboration with the Israeli Government.
Beginning with a prototype for various food industries, including bakery, catering, pasta, and sauces, Zero Egg recruited scientists and food technologists to help bring its first-generation product to market.
Following successful trials, Zero Egg is currently selling to restaurants, bakeries, and to a ravioli producer in its native Israel.
The product is a plant-based liquid egg, Nimrodi explained. When selling to manufacturers and big producers, the start-up sells its product in powder form. “We teach them how to liquefy it to use in their production line. So it’s more economical, safe, easy to ship, and easy to implement.”
In whatever format, the yellow product is made up of a selection of GMO-free proteins, including chickpea, pea, soy, and potato proteins. Turmeric is responsible for its egg-like colouring. “The uniqueness is the combination of several types that give the functionality,” explained the CEO.
The product has the properties of an egg, she continued, meaning that it whips, it coagulates when heated, and has emulsification properties. “When you whip it you can use it in products such as cakes. We even created meringue with it. And you can create sauces [such as vegan mayonnaise] because it has emulsification properties.”
From a health perspective, Zero Egg’s product is lower in calories than its conventional counterpart (15 calories per egg substitute compared to just under 70 calories in an egg powder equivalent). Each egg equivalent contains 2.3g protein, and no fat or cholesterol.
Zero Egg vs JUST Egg
Zero Egg is not the first company to target the egg substitute market. In the US, JUST has developed a product designed to look, cook, and taste just like scrambled egg. JUST Egg, sold in liquid format, is made from water, mung bean protein isolate, and canola oil.
So how do these two products differ? According to Nimrodi, there are two primary distinctions: “First of all, JUST is really designed for scrambled eggs. That is the main application,” Zero Egg’s CEO explained. Nimrodi’s product, on the other hand, ‘brings a platform’ with increased versatility, “we want to be an enabler for all applications”.
The second discrepancy relates to cost. Due to JUST’s process and product structure, its cost is ‘very high’, said Nimrodi. “It’s very high for industry and foodservice, it’s even not relevant for them. We want to bring a product that is cost-effective.” This creates a point of difference, she continued.
JUST appears aware of this potential cost barrier. Earlier this year, CEO Josh Tetrick told sister publication FoodNavigator-USA it wants to undercut the global cost of egg (which stands at around US 8 cents) to sell its egg equivalent for less than US 5 cents.
From a sustainability perspective, the CEO is convinced using Zero Egg has a hugely positive effect on the planet, compared to regular eggs. The start-up is currently undertaking a Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) study to bring concrete figures to the product’s greenhouse gas emissions, feed, water, and land usage.
Zero Egg is currently piloting its product with food manufacturers in the UK and the US and will focus on these markets before expanding into foodservice. “We are not looking to sell B2C yet,” Nimrodi confirmed.
The company has received significant interest from other geographies, such as Asia and Latin America, so “geographic expansion is something we will consider in our plans,” we were told. “The demand is global.”
Nimrodi also hinted at the development of a second-generation Zero Egg product with improved nutritional values, a higher protein content, and a reduced ingredients list. But of course “it’s always about functionality and taste,” she told this publication. “That is always something that can be improved.”