A radical ‘artificial egg’ backed by Paypal billionaire Peter Thiel and Bill Gates goes on sale in US supermarkets for the first time today.
Made from plants, it can replace eggs in everything from cakes to mayonnaise – without a chicken ever coming close to the production process.
The team today started selling their ‘plant egg’, called Beyond Eggs, in Whole Foods in California – and say it could soon be available in supermarkets worldwide.
‘We want to take animals out of the equation,’ said Josh Tetrick, the firm’s founder. ‘The food industry is begging for innovation, especially where animals are involved – it is a broken industry.’
‘Even better than the real thing’:
MailOnline was able to try two of Hampton Creek’s products – its mayonnaise, and cookies made using its baking product.
The results were surprising, if a little anticlimactic. Both tasted exactly as you would expect – and are indistinguishable from products made with real egg.
The chocolate chip cookies we tried were excellent – crumbly, moist and with a feel in the mouth identical to a normal cookie. Crucially, they also look identical to a normal cookie – despite containing no egg.
Hampton Creek’s ‘Beyond Egg’ mayonnaise was also extremely similar to ‘normal’ mayo – and after trying it out on a few friends, some even preferred to to normal mayonnaise.
Tetrick’s idea was to find a mix of easy-to-grow plants that, when mixed together in the right way, replicate the taste, nutritional values and cooking properties of an egg.
This, he believes will allow the firm to produce its substitute for mass market foods – and to allow developing worlds to grow their own versions with added nutrients.
‘Eggs are functionally incredible, they do everything from hold oil and water in mayo to making the muffin rise and holding scrambled eggs together,’ he said ‘I started to think what if we can find plants that can do this. We have about 12 plants pre-selected, including a pea already widely grown in Canada. There’s also a bean in South Asia that is incredible in scrambled eggs.’
The firm is already in talks with major food manufacturers around the world – including several in the UK, to replace eggs in supermarket products with their alternative.
So far, he says the team has perfected an egg substitute for mayonnaise, and one for cakes.
‘We can make really good mayonnaise, we’ve done taste tests against market leaders, and beaten them consistently. In the world of cookies, we’ve trialled our products with everyone from Bill Gates to Tony Blair, both of whom couldn’t taste the difference.
‘Bill Gates became an advisor to the company, and has been one of its most vocal supporters in the Silicon Valley world where Hampton Creek is based.
‘Companies like Hampton Creek Foods are experimenting with new ways to use heat and pressure to turn plants into foods that look and taste just like meat and eggs,’ he recently wrote of the firm.
The team initially struggled.
‘Our first attempts weren’t great, we tried to make a muffin using a mix of plants,’ said Tetrick.
‘Ours tasted really gummy, and didn’t have the ‘bounce’ we wanted. Our mayonnaise would not hold the oil and egg together, so had what looked like liquid syrup. Scrambled eggs were even worse – they just wouldn’t congeal at all, and had a really bad aftertaste.
Tetrick admits the firm is struggling with artificial scrambled egg. He says there is a ‘pretty good’ recipe, but admits more work is needed.
‘Eventually we’ll get to one thing that will replace everything,’ he said.
The firm hopes to allow developing countries to grow and produce their own ‘plant eggs’.
‘In developing countries, we can also add in things missing from the local diet, helping nutrient deficiencies, and we have had initial discussion with the world food programme about this.
‘What we want to do eventually is find a way to work with farmers in the developing world to enable them to have new cash crops that can be used. Then we become the kind of company to be feared by the bad guys in the industry.’
Source: Daily Mail