Albumin substitute developed from legume wastewater: ‘Just like egg protein, it binds, emulsifies, and foams’

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

Fabumin is a functional, cost-competitive and sustainable ingredient for the food industry, we were told. GettyImages/tataks
Fabumin is a functional, cost-competitive and sustainable ingredient for the food industry, we were told. GettyImages/tataks

Related tags albumin Aquafaba

Israeli start-up Fabumin has developed a cost-competitive, vegan alternative to egg protein from legume wastewater. FoodNavigator hears how.

In the B2B food ingredients market, albumin is big business. The functional egg protein helps food makers bind, emulsify, and foam their products – from pancakes to meringue and ice cream.

According to Fortune Business Insights, the global albumin market size was valued at $4.29bn in 2018 and is forecast to reach $6.77bn by 2026 with a CAGR of 6%.

However, food entrepreneur Adi Yehezkeli believes albumin falls short in meeting consumer demands.

As a vegan herself, Yehezkeli noted that albumin does not respond to rising consumer demands for plant-based alternatives. Further, it contains allergens and is associated with salmonella risk, she told delegates at ProVeg Incubator’s Startup Demo Day last week.

“Another problem for albumin is the environmental cost,” ​she stressed. To produce a single egg, 30L of water are required, as is 0.3m² of land. Around 230g of greenhouse gases are emitted.

Yehezkeli, together with co-founder Adi Lengel, have developed a vegan alternative to albumin they say is functional, cost-competitive, and sustainable: Fabumin.

Upcycling wastewater into a functional ingredient

Working under a start-up of the same name, Yehezkeli (CEO) and Lengel (COO) are approaching the albumin substitute challenge with the circular economy in mind.

Their solution is an ingredient developed from legume wastewater. To create Fabumin, the start-up sets up a water reduction unit inside a legume cooking factory.

“The unit can evaporate more than 80% of the water, taking it back to the factory for re-use,” ​explained Yehezkeli.

From there, the condensed legume water is transported to Fabumin’s centralised facility for further treatment, before being dried into a powder.

The start-up has calculated its albumin substitute could retail for as little as $15 per kilo, which would significantly undercut conventional albumin with a retail price of $20 per kilo.

chickpea Alasdair James
Fabumin is developed from the wastewater of legume production, such as chickpeas. GettyImages/Alasdair James

But Fabumin is not only superior to albumin, according to the start-up. The innovative ingredient is also preferable compared to current replacement solutions on the market, we were told.

These include single-functionality powders, ‘egg-as-a-dish’ substitutes – such as JUST Egg and Zero Egg – liquid aquafaba and powdered aquafaba. “Aquafaba is a by-product of the legume industry,” ​the CEO explained. “Like albumin, it binds, emulsifies and foams. Typically it is poured directly into the sewer.

“Aquafaba is great, but it’s liquid – and the industry doesn’t like to work with liquids. Further, it has a short lifespan. When in powder form, it’s highly priced.”

Route to market

Fabumin also binds, emulsifies and foams, while being ‘clean label’ (with no animal products, GMOs or allergens), and in upcycling industry by-products, is ‘eco-friendly’.

The start-up has three markets in its sights for disruption: the B2B egg powder and albumin market, the B2B emulsifier market, and the B2B2C home baking kits market.

“We aim to penetrate 1% of these markets within five years,” ​said the CEO.

eggs barmalini
Within the next five years, Fabumin hopes to save 500,000m eggs. GettyImages/barmalini

Having established the start-up in 2019, Fabumin has since setup a strategic partnership with ingredients major IFF and registered a patent for its technology and product.

Within five years, when Fabumin expects to have achieved a 1% penetration, it will also have made a significant impact on the environment, we were told: saving 235,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, 1,500 chickens, 500,000m eggs, and close to 30m litres of freshwater.

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