I’m not a vegan, but I’ve had plenty of egg substitutes in various products, from Vegenaise to Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer. Some of them taste alright. Most are mediocre, and none match up to the flavor of real eggs.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to taste test Hampton Creek’s plant-based egg substitutes in cookies (Beyond Eggs for Cookies) and mayonnaise (Just Mayo). The taste was so realistic that I was fooled in a blind cookie taste test. Starting this week, Whole Foods is selling Just Mayo in select Northern California stores–so you can go up to the prepared foods section, make your Just Mayo-filled sandwich, and fool your friends. Hampton Creek will roll out the product to Whole Foods stores elsewhere in the country soon.
The Bill Gates-endorsed startup, based in a San Francisco warehouse, isn’t aiming for the vegan market, though vegans will likely be the earliest customers. As company CEO Josh Tetrick has told me, Hampton Creek is looking to break into the $6 billion global egg ingredient market.
While consumers will knowingly order Just Mayo at Whole Foods, Hampton Creek’s fake eggs could one day end up as just another ingredient in processed foods–albeit one made entirely from plants at a cost that is 18% less than real eggs, according to the startup. The company says it is already in talks with major global food manufacturers.
In addition to Just Mayo and Beyond Eggs for Cookies, Hampton Creek is also working on cookie dough called Eat the Dough and a product that scrambles like a real egg. “Plants can bind like an egg in a cookie, hold oil and water in mayonnaise, scramble like an egg, and puff out in a muffin,” Tetrick told me during my visit. By May 2013, a year after launch, the company had tested 344 fake egg prototypes and examined 287 types of plants that could be useful in production. Seems like it takes a lot of work to mimic nature’s creations.