With the cost of chicken eggs skyrocketing across the country, startups and established companies are developing innovative vegan solutions that can meet the expectations of consumers. Vegan brand Yo! Egg, created by famed Israeli chef Yosefa Ben Cohen and co-founder Eran Groner, is an animal-free whole egg—complete with a runny yolk—that is the latest brand to bring an option to the table.
The brand is launching in the United States this month, starting with restaurant menus in Southern California before expanding availability nationwide in foodservice businesses such as independent restaurants and chains and university campuses. Yo! Egg first made its debut in Israel less than one year ago and is already being used by popular restaurants such as the shakshuka chain Benedict in Tel Aviv where it sells more than 400 Yo! Egg dishes daily, as well as in the Israeli offices of major companies such Google, Apple, and Facebook.
Yo! Egg is made with common ingredients such as chickpeas, sunflower oil, water, and soy, and it could be the first poached egg alternative that actually tastes and performs like the real thing. The product only needs to be heated before being plated in a variety of classic preparations such as Eggs Benedict, ramen, Korean rice bowls, avocado toasts, and more.
In the near future, the brand plans to expand its offerings to include additional products, including sunny-side-up and hard boiled eggs, with the intent to launch these initial products into retail in 2024.
Moving toward animal-free eggs
Yo! Egg is a big step forward for plant-based food, and its founders hope the world moves towards a food system that does not rely on conventional animal agriculture to avoid pandemics, price fluctuations, and environmental concerns.
According to the brand, 80 percent of the more than 100 billion eggs consumed annually in the United States are consumed as whole eggs, whether fried, poached, or sunny side up. With plans to scale rapidly over the next year, Yo! Egg believes it fills a gap in the egg industry and has the potential to completely transform the currently troubled egg market.
“At Yo Egg, we believe hens are no longer necessary in the egg manufacturing process,” Eran Groner, the co-founder and CEO of Yo Egg, tells VegNews. “In fact, manufacturing eggs with hens is limiting.”
“Doing so at the scale necessary to feed current (and increasing) demand requires growing and transporting large amounts of grain to feed chickens, keeping those chickens in close confinement, and artificially inducing their bodies to produce significantly more than they are genetically intended to,” Groner says.
Groner explains that this leads to inefficient use of water and land, increased greenhouse gas emissions, non-therapeutic use of antibiotics and hormones, and the spread of foodborne illnesses such as the avian flu, which has the potential to wipe out whole populations, leading to shortages and skyrocketing prices. Amidst the current egg shortages, the world is waking up to these realities now.
“Furthermore, consumption of conventional eggs contributes to high levels of dietary cholesterol and, particularly for eggs with runny yolks, exposure to dangerous pathogens like salmonella,” he adds.
But when it comes to vegan eggs’ ability to replace the chicken egg, they need to be able to meet key aspects of the traditional egg-eating experience, too. “First and foremost, taste,” Groner says. “We have spoken to countless consumers about their likes and dislikes about eggs, and what most crave are the unique tastes and textures that come with eating a whole egg. Price and nutrition [and] food safety are also important.”
The growing vegan egg market
Yo! Egg joins a growing number of vegan egg startups targeting this space, including Perfeggt, Simply Eggless, and Eat Just which offer powdered and liquid varieties of vegan eggs for baking and cooking. For its part, Eat Just was one of the first to crack the code of a fluffy scramble with its mung bean-based Just Egg liquid egg.
And then there are products such as WunderEgg, which has successfully replicated a hard-boiled egg. Packaged in whole form without the shell, this product aims to look, taste, and feel just like a hard-boiled egg and recently became available at Whole Foods Markets nationwide. The ingredient list here is simple and includes water, cashews, almonds, and coconut milk; the additional trace ingredients include black salt, agar, turmeric extract, and nutritional yeast.
Yo! Egg, however, is one of the few brands going after the more difficult “whole egg” experience, having developed an egg white and running yolk for consumers who like the taste and texture of that style of eggs but prefer a more sustainable and cholesterol-free option.
“Our eggs solve all of these problems and they can be produced at scale without the vulnerability and volatility of the chicken egg industry,” Groner says. “And, most importantly, they’re unbelievably delicious.”