The Race Is On To Create Mainstream Vegan Egg Replacements

For those who love eggs in all of their permutations, there's no real wrong way to go. From fried eggs to scotch eggs, from poached eggs to deviled eggs, whether they're on a sandwich or a key ingredient, eggs are beautifully versatile. That is, unless you're eating vegan, in which case you're constantly reminded of just how many recipes require eggs.

As mass-produced vegan food continues to slide its way into the mainstream, an increasing number of companies are getting into the soon-to-be-lucrative business of replicating proteins for vegetarian and vegan diners, in ways that can approximate the taste and versatility of their animal-based counterparts.

Clara Foods, a San Francisco-based startup working in the food sector, announced that its latest infusion of funding will allow it to put its replicated egg whites and yolks on the market by 2020: "This round of financing will fast-track commercialization of the world's first chicken-less egg proteins, expand research and development capabilities, and broaden Clara's product roadmap into many other animal proteins beyond the initial focus on egg white proteins."

Through its "proprietary yeast fermentation technology", Clara's aim is to offer a viable egg alternative for use in everything from baking to protein drink ingredients. A San Francisco Chronicle article on the announcement includes further details about what Clara's research aims to accomplish in particular:

One is a protein [Clara] found within the egg that has a clean, versatile flavor ... Clara says that unlike the protein powder that's often added to smoothies, it's not grainy or chalky, qualities that beverage companies usually try to cover up by sweet, milky ingredients.

The other product is an egg white replacer, prime for creating foams, meringues and properly leavened cakes. There is a liquid version — less gooey than a chicken's egg whites — and a powdered version.

The "egg white replacer" will likely be of particular interest to vegan bakers, who've long had to adjust their methods around the consistency issues of some alternatives. In any case, Clara's work (if it proves fruitful, of course) offers another reminder that we're rapidly departing the days of vegan options being a niche privilege, one often confined to urban centers.

Granted, Clara isn't the only player in this rapidly growing market. JUST (previously Hampton Creek) already offers JUST Egg, an alternative that's recently outsold traditional liquid egg whites brands as a vegan alternative. Other startup companies are also looking at entering the fray. The future is on the way, and the arms race for a truly great laboratory-made egg has begun.