By Deena Shanker | Bloomberg
After years of dominating the plant-based egg market, Eat Just Inc. is competing with one of the oldest plant-based proteins available: tofu.
Hodo Inc., an Oakland, Calif.-based tofu maker, is launching its fake egg scramble later this month, with plans to have the product available in about 1,500 supermarkets by mid-June. the company told Bloomberg News.
“We’ve noticed that outside of Just Egg, there’s not a lot of innovation in the egg space. We started tinkering with our current recipe to make the texture and flavor more like scrambled eggs,” said founder and general manager Minh Tsai. “I think this will probably be our fastest selling product in a year.”
There are trends in favor of Hodo. Consumers are still looking to add more plants to their diets, despite stagnating sales of meat alternatives, said Dasha Shor, an analyst at Mintel. Now, she says, they are looking for more natural options. “We’re seeing the backlash of processing,” Shor said, noting that 60% of US plant protein consumers say they would eat more meat alternatives if they were less processed.
Tofu seems to do the trick. But despite being one of the oldest plant proteins, its sales are still small compared to meat alternatives. Tofu sales totaled $285 million in the United States in 2021, while meat and seafood alternatives brought in $1.8 billion that year, according to data from Euromonitor. Both pale in comparison to sales of real eggs, which totaled $9.8 billion last year.
Relatively low sales of tofu are in part due to consumer hesitation about foods they don’t normally cook, which Hodo has acknowledged with its long list of flavored, cubed products. and otherwise ready to eat or ready to cook. Its scramble is similar: it has the expected short ingredient list of tofu, but the convenience of going straight to the pan or microwave for cooking.
The company’s compound annual growth rate over the past five years is 20%, Tsai said, and he expects sales to top $25 million this year. Its products are sold through nearly 10,000 retailers and more than 5,000 restaurants, including chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Sweetgreen Inc., as well as high-end restaurants like the Slanted Door in San Francisco. .
However, going up against Eat Just will mean going up against a company with more than 43,000 retail outlets and 1,500 foodservice locations in North America alone. The fake egg maker is also selling in Asia and Africa, and it has its eye on Europe now that there’s approval. Eat Just claims to have over 99% of the US vegan egg market. Its “egg” is also more versatile — it can be used for cooking, for example — and comes in several formats.
Tsai praises her competitor but still thinks there is room for competition. “Functionally, Just wins,” he said, “but from a simplicity of ingredients and taste perspective, I think we compete well.”
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