As Plant-Based Burger Brands Battle, One Faux-Egg Maker Is Dominating a New Niche

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Move over, fake meat and oat milk—egg substitutes are looking to grab some of the plant-based food spotlight.

Though it’s niche, making up a tiny portion of overall plant-based protein sales—dominating by the fake burger brands that have been sparring for primacy—the faux egg category is growing by triple-digit percentages, spurred by baking binges and home-cooked meals during the pandemic, coupled with notable shifts in consumer preferences and buying habits.

The leading brand in the space, Just Egg, has announced new deals that will increase its retail distribution by 40%, adding Walmart, Albertsons, Kroger and other chains to a footprint that will soon stretch across 17,000 stores.

The company also launched a partnership with Yelp recently to boost local diners, created its first connected-TV campaign and linked with popular TikTok star Tabitha Brown and other influencers.

This comes on the heels of a study Just Egg commissioned from OnePoll that found more than half of consumers said they’re eating fewer animal products since the Covid-19 outbreak, and nearly six in 10 are transitioning to a more flexitarian diet, citing health as their top reason for making the change.

“The data validated some things we already knew,” said Josh Tetrick, cofounder and CEO of the startup, whose mung bean-based products began hitting shelves in 2018. “But the consumer mindset is changing even faster than we’d anticipated.”

Gains during lockdown

The brand, after a regional test, will expand to 1,900 Walmart stores by the end of the month. Additional deals for its frozen and refrigerated products will make it available in 1,000 Kroger locations, including Ralphs and Fred Meyer, along with chains like Food Lion, Giant, Jewel-Osco, Randalls and Acme.

“We’re covering almost every part of the U.S. now,” Tetrick said. “We’re building a business that’s looking to reach more people and have more of an impact.”

Just Egg, so dominant it has a nearly 99% market share, has seen its retail sales skyrocket, with more than 100% sales bumps at some mass market outlets between February and July. Its case shipments to retailers are up 170% for the same period and 330% in August, compared to the previous year, the company said.

The egg substitute category makes up only a sliver of plant-based food sales that are dominated by burgers and non-dairy drinks like oat milk. By comparison, plant-based dairy logged $2 billion in 2019 sales, and meatless meat earned $939 million. Faux eggs, with $10 million in sales, is the smallest plant-based category, according to Good Food Institute, but it grew in dollar sales by 228% between 2017 and 2019 and jumped another 192% in 2019.

Access is key

Breakfast has been a battleground in general and for plant-based meat in particular, with faux sausage and sandwiches dominating the 2020 food headlines (2019 was the year of the meatless burger). Egg substitutes are likely to benefit from the current momentum, said Kyle Gaan, research analyst at GFI.

Just Egg, in its liquid form, sells in refrigerated cases next to real eggs, boosting its visibility, he said. (The brand’s new frozen product, a ready-to-heat “folded” egg similar to an omelet, debuted in April and sits next to waffles and sausage in freezer cases).

“When consumers don’t have to go to a different section of the store, that’s when plant-based products take off,” Gaan said. “Shoppers need to see it right next to the established animal products.”

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