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Animal-free egg white from The EVERY Company
Image credit: The EVERY Company

Unilever brand The Vegetarian Butcher partners with ‘animal-free’ egg protein pioneer The EVERY Co

May 15, 2024

The EVERY Company—the first player to commercialize egg proteins produced by microbes instead of chickens—has teamed up with Unilever-owned brand The Vegetarian Butcher to incorporate its animal-free egg whites into select meat alternative products as a clean label binder.

A leading player in the alt meat space with products in thousands of retail and foodservice outlets across Europe and beyond with partnerships with Burger King and Subway, The Vegetarian Butcher was founded by Jaap Korteweg and Niko Koffeman in the Netherlands in 2010 and acquired by Unilever in 2018.

Like many players in the space, it has been exploring binders that can serve as alternatives to egg white (an animal-derived ingredient with notoriously volatile pricing and availability thanks to recurrent bouts of avian flu) and methylcellulose (a highly-functional chemically modified binder with a less than consumer-friendly name).

EVERY EggWhite—which contains ovalbumin (the most prevalent protein in egg white) made via precision fermentation—delivers functional properties including aeration, whipping, gelling, binding, and foam stability, making it “a natural fit with The Vegetarian Butcher’s mission to release animals from the food chain,” said The Vegetarian Butcher in a LinkedIn post this morning.

“This breakthrough, clean-label ingredient is a natural fit with The Vegetarian Butcher’s mission to release animals from the food chain. After years of dedicated effort to further veganize our product range, this new collaboration aims to accelerate the final steps of this process, while preserving the delicious taste and texture of our products.”

Market drivers for animal-free egg proteins

In some respects, the business case for animal-free egg proteins is more immediately obvious than it is for some other animal-free products, in that food manufacturers have been looking for viable alternatives to chicken eggs for years thanks to YoYo pricing and supply challenges that come into focus whenever there’s a fresh bout of avian flu, The EVERY Company’s chief commercial officer Nick Toriello told AgFunderNews.

In the case of The Vegetarian Butcher, he said, “They’ve been trying to get methylcellulose out of their formulations for quite some time. And what was key to them was that EVERY EggWhite was a relatively simple and straightforward product to work with as it could just serve as a drop-in replacement. The taste and texture of the end product is superior and they get a cleaner label at the back end.”

The EVERY Co’s proteins are Vegan Society certified as no animals were used or harmed to produce its egg proteins [although they must still carry an egg allergen warning]. However, the vegan or ‘animal-free’ message is not necessarily front of mind for many potential partners, says the firm, which recently partnered with Colombia’s Grupo Nutresa to use EVERY EggWhite in meat alternatives.

“Every customer is different,” said Toriello. “Some want to absolutely take animals out of their supply chain. But the bigger thing we’ve noticed in the last two years is that they want stability on supply and price. And on price, we are competitive with cage free egg white pricing today.”

‘What matters is cost-in-use’

VP and general manager Lance Lively added: “The egg is the weighted average of the dozens and dozens of proteins that are part of it. If you isolate the most functional ones, and you have twice the gelling power of normal egg white, you can include half as much ingredient, but the cost to our customers is the same, and so everyone wins. In the case of methylcellulose, we’re able to add less of our protein relative to the amount of methylcellulose and so the cost in use is effectively the same.”

The EVERY Company has secured ‘no questions’ letters from the FDA in response to its GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) determinations for its proteins (herehere, and here), and has submitted applications under the Novel Foods process in the EU and the UK, said Toriello.

In the case of The Vegetarian Butcher products, he said, “We aim to have that regulatory approval in parallel with the launch. So the main market we’re targeting for this is the UK specifically, but we’re actively exploring near-term opportunities in other regions.”

CEO: ‘We still have quite a bit of runway’

The EVERY Company—founded by Arturo Elizondo and David Anchel in late 2014 as Clara Foods—has raised $233 million to date, a pretty jaw-dropping sum although markedly less than the staggering $840 million raised by Perfect Day to try and get its animal-free dairy business off the ground.

Elizondo, who has raised capital from investors including Anne HathawayTemasek, and ZX Ventures, explained in a recent interview  that, “We still have quite a bit of runway as we’ve been very lean. And part of it is that we’ve never invested in large-scale production capacity in-house and we’ve never entered the B2C world by launching consumer brands.”

Elizondo, who has forged partnerships with ingredients giant Ingredion for distribution and AB InBev for manufacturing and scale up, said he had “two priorities in 2024: onboarding additional manufacturing capacity and translating that into products in the marketplace.”

He added: “We’ve proven that our technology works at scale; we’re producing regularly in 100,000-L+ fermenters [via co-manufacturers] making metric tons of product. So it’s now a matter of continuing to dial up scale so we have enough capacity to ultimately bring the cost down.”

According to Lively: “What we’re thinking the most about is how can we get to the point where we can supply 20% of eggs to the top five egg users on an annualized basis.”

The EVERY Co Every Egg Image credit The EVERY Co
EVERY Egg. Image credit: The EVERY Company

The portfolio

While multiple players have jumped into the animal-free dairy space, only a couple of players (The EVERY Company and Onego Bio) are in the animal-free egg protein space, which reflects how challenging it is, claimed Lively. “For whey protein, there’s a much lower technical barrier to entry versus egg proteins.”

The EVERY Company engineers yeast (Komagataella phaffii) strains to express proteins found in eggs during a fermentation process requiring a source of sugars as the feedstock. The proteins are secreted into the broth in the tank and removed via a simple filtration process.

To date, it has developed four ingredients:

  • EVERY Protein​: a highly soluble, ‘near-invisible’ protein bio-identical to a glycoprotein (ovomucoid) found in egg white, enabling “new-to-the-world, protein-boosted beverages and food products with a neutral sensory profile and optical clarity.”​
  • EVERY EggWhite​: A 1-to-1 egg white replacer. This contains ovalbumin (the most prevalent protein in egg white) which delivers functional properties including aeration, whipping, gelling, binding, and foam stability.
  • EVERY Egg: A liquid whole egg replacement containing EVERY EggWhite, plant-based oils, natural colors and flavors, fiber, and water.
  • EVERY Pepsin​: Animal-free pepsin (an enzyme traditionally sourced from pig stomachs) “offering greater quality, purity and secure, and consistent sourcing.”​ Currently on hold as the firm prioritizes its other ingredients.

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