Changing America

Could you tell the difference between this plant-based egg and a traditional chicken egg?

Eat Just is a San Francisco startup that is trying to take the “animal” out of animal food products.

“It starts with a question. Is there a plant that can scramble like an egg?” asked Joshua Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of Eat Just, a food technology startup currently located in the Inner Mission district of San Francisco.

That question was answered and commercialized in 2019, after a long discovery process of testing and cataloguing plants from all over the world. Tetrick and his team at Eat Just eventually came upon the mung bean, a 4,400-year-old legume primarily cultivated in the East and Southeast regions of Asia. With their discovery of the special properties of the mung bean, they were able to launch the first version of their Just Egg product.

“It has a storage protein inside of it that when you mill the mung bean and then you separate out the protein from the flour, and you throw it in the pan, it actually scrambles like an egg at roughly the same time and temperature. Then we added some other ingredients to it and it became a product that we have on the market called Just Egg,” said Tetrick. “Before us the idea of an egg from a plant didn’t exist, so we were able to create an entirely new category.”

But why go to all this trouble to make an egg from a plant? While the vegan community represents a formidable and growing market, Just Egg has already initiated international scaling of operations and distribution to appeal to a broader market, and can already be found in more than 43,000 retail stores in North America.

The team at Eat Just is marketing their product to more than just vegans interested in the welfare of egg laying chickens forced to live in less than desirable conditions. They also are appealing to environmentalists, as one Just Egg equivalent requires 93 percent less CO2 emissions than a traditional egg. Health conscious people also might prefer Just Egg, as the product boasts zero cholesterol and 69 percent less saturated fat of a traditional egg while maintaining the equivalent amount of protein.

As the team continues to come out with newer, tastier and cheaper eggs each year, they hope to appeal to the entire egg market globally.

“Ultimately the goal needs to be that we want to be below the cost of a conventional egg and that’s not only good from the business side, but when I try to think of someone like my dad who lives in Springfield, Missouri who’s not going to spend two to three times more for his eggs, how do I appeal to him?” Tetrick said. “How do I appeal to folks who are living under 10 dollars a day around the world who are eating eggs? You’re not going to do it by having a more expensive egg. So driving the cost out of the system is key to the mission, which is eventually an egg from a plant is the most consumed egg on the planet.”

Last year, Just Egg was the fastest growing egg brand measured in unit sales at a large national retailer. Their product can be found in the egg section at stores like Safeway, Whole Foods, Kroger and Walmart.