JUST expands mung bean protein processing to Europe with Emsland deal

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

Image source: JUST, Inc.
Image source: JUST, Inc.

Related tags JUST Egg JUST Inc Mung bean

German ingredients supplier Emsland Group has partnered with US start-up JUST, Inc to process mung bean protein for the latter’s plant-based scrambled egg alternative Just Egg.

Emsland Group manufactures raw materials from vegetables, including pea and potato products used in a wide range of food applications.

Now, the Emlichheim-headquartered company is partnering with San Francisco-based JUST (formerly Hampton Creek) to process mung bean protein – the key ingredient in Just Egg – for the first time.

According to JUST, the deal will help make Just Egg one of the lowest-cost and most sustainable proteins available. The benefits are at least two-fold: the partnership allows the manufacturing partners to access mung bean protein more easily, as well as help create a new revenue stream from the sale of the legume’s high starch content.

“Our partnership with Emsland Group is not only an innovative and creative development in the world of protein processing but it will ultimately help us make Just Egg more accessible and affordable to customers and consumers around the globe,”​ said Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of JUST.

What is Just Egg?

JUST’s plant-based scrambled egg alternative first reached the US market in late 2017. Today, the product is in more than 10,000 retail stores, as well as in foodservice, across the country.

And according to JUST, retail sales are booming: “Total US grocery velocity is up more than 50% since December and several key national accounts are higher than that.”

From a nutritional standpoint, Just Egg contains no cholesterol, low saturated fat, and has an overall similar protein content to that of real eggs. Indeed, one serving of JUST Egg contains 5g protein, whereas a conventional 150g egg contains around 6g.

The main source of protein in JUST’s liquid egg replacement comes from the mung bean. The company uses a patented extraction technology to produce a 95% protein-rich powder.

Once JUST has produced the mung bean protein isolate, the powder is transported to downstream partners for manufacturing and distribution into retail and foodservice.

These partners then add additional ingredients, including water, canola oil, soy lecithin, gellan gum, and natural turmeric extractives for the colour, before distributing the product through their channels.

Sourcing and international expansion

“We source [our mung beans] from Asia and Africa,” ​JUST’s head of global communications, Andrew Noyes, told FoodNavigator. “Most of our processing currently is done in the US at the factory we acquired last year.”

In December 2019, the start-up announced it had expanded its manufacturing operations to include a 30,000-square-foot facility and 40 acres of land in western Minnesota.

The facility houses industrial food processing equipment, a quality assurance laboratory, warehousing and administrative offices, with ‘ample room’ for further expansion.

“With this acquisition, we’ll be able to separate more protein from more beans, accelerating JUST Egg sales and distribution around the world,” ​noted the company at the time.

JUST Egg made a start on its international distribution journey in 2018. “We’ve already launched in China on major e-commerce platforms like TMall and JD.com and have a team on the ground in Shanghai,” ​Noyes explained.

While Europe is still on the agenda – JUST has already signed a distribution deal with Italian egg producer and distributor Eurovo Group​ – the barrier lies in regulation. The European Union considers mung bean protein a novel food, and as such, requires premarket authorisation.

“We’re continuing to work with European regulators on a pathway to market and we have large retail and foodservice customers who are excited to make the product available as well as a growing consumer fan base who wants to be able to buy JUST Egg,” ​the company’s communications lead told this publication.

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