When we talk about the animal product substitute market, we usually talk about meat and chicken substitutes, but you don't need to be vegan to know that the egg industry also contributes its fair share in polluting our earth, not to mention the suffering hens. Yo Egg is a new Israeli startup that develops a plant-based "egg", which looks, acts, and even tastes quite similar to a real egg - but it does not come from chickens or their coops.
Plant proteins but without the cholesterol
Yo Egg's product is based on plant substances like chickpea protein, soy protein and carrots. At a recent tasting event, I tasted the poached egg version, which pretty much looked like the real thing, and was also quite tasty (except for a slightly sour taste I felt, which the company says stems from the sauce placed on the dish). The company also has a poached egg version which you will be able to order at Benedict's by the end of the month. According to the company, its eggs come with nutritional values similar to those of the animal eggs, but without cholesterol and with very little saturated fat.
"When was the last time you ate a poached egg for breakfast on a plane?" Eran Gruner, CEO of Yo Egg, asks me. "It does not exist. Have you ever seen a poached egg in a supermarket? It does not exist because there are many disadvantages to an animal egg that don't allow for it," he claims. He said that the company’s egg is not just for vegans but will also be for situations in which animal eggs aren't so viable. For example, when you're on a transatlantic flight, or just want to pick up a quick dinner for yourself without being a professionally trained chef.
Gruner refuses to talk to me about terms like "protein" and "yolk" (rather he refers to them as "yellow" and "white"). But when I ask him what makes Yo Egg from a company that produces a particular product to a technology company for all intents and purposes, he replies that "our innovation comes not only in the product but also in the production technology. We are literally manufacturing eggs. We developed, from scratch, machines that produce eggs in this way that is scalable and cost-effective. That's the big challenge we're faced with. To produce these kinds of products at scale is not easy- if you're an expert in molecular cooking you’d understand that. There are no such machines in the world today. We invented them."
According to him, like other products in the food tech field, Yo's eggs have had different formats/ versions. For example, until recently it was not possible to make the soft-boiled egg without it falling apart, yet eventually, in a later version, it will even be possible to control the level of "yellow", scramble it and more. "We are working to allow our eggs to meet all the needs that the consumer expects from an [animal] egg. We are not there yet so we can expect versions 2.0, 2.1 and 3 and 5 of each of the products."
Yo Egg does not stop at Benedict’s; according to Gruner, it will also reach supermarkets in Israel by the end of next year, in parallel with its launch in the United States. Today (Tuesday) Yo Egg announced the completion of a $5 million Seed fundraising round led by Stray Dog Capital (which was one of the first investors in Beyond Meat) with participation from NFX, Surround Ventures and Secret Chord Ventures. "The funding of $5 million will allow us to build the production infrastructure in the United States, and we're already producing at the pilot level. We have a place in San Francisco where we produce the eggs," Gruner explains.
The company currently employs 10 technicians, mechanical engineers, and some salespeople in the United States, but Gruner claims: "We are not a garage startup, this is a team that is setting up the largest egg company in the world."