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Neggst: This vegan egg is almost indistinguishable from the original

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Neggst: This vegan egg is almost indistinguishable from the original

For breakfast, manufacturers such as the start-up Greenforce, the family business Biovegan or Rewe Bio have so far offered scrambled eggs made from egg substitutes in powder form for mixing. But now there is a real vegan egg:

The founder and nutritionist Verónica García Arteaga spent four years working on an egg that consists of plant proteins and vegetables on the inside, but looks like the classic hen’s egg – with egg white, yolk and the characteristic white shell.

The latter consists of biodegradable plastic and calcium carbonate. In contrast to the original, the vegan egg shell is said to be more hygienic and stable.

It’s just thin enough to whip on a fried egg pan or mixing bowl. Depending on the amount of calcium, the egg sometimes feels smoother, sometimes more porous.

The bowl was designed by chemical engineer Siegfried Fürtauer, with whom Garía Arteaga researched the vegan egg at the Fraunhofer Institute as part of her doctorate. In 2021, her start-up Neggst (formerly Bettr Egg) was spun off and is now based in Berlin.

Challenge vegetable protein

The founder herself developed the composition of the Neggst eggs: she experimented with which vegetable substances could best be used to recreate the protein and yolk with their changing properties – from liquid to solid.

“The biggest challenge was to produce the vegetable protein. I had to research the ingredients for a very long time,” García Arteaga says in an interview with “Gründerszene”. It has been difficult to find ingredients that produce something like a firm texture when heated and maintain that texture when cooled. At the same time, it was important to the scientist to use ingredients that are healthy, have good nutritional values ​​and do not contain any allergens such as nuts or soy.

In addition to scientific curiosity, García Arteaga was personally interested in researching a vegan egg. When the native Mexican came to Germany eight years ago to do her master’s degree, she decided to become a vegetarian.

“But then I ate a lot more eggs, which I didn’t like either,” she says. At the Technical University of Munich, she met fellow students who followed a vegan diet and therefore dealt a lot with meat substitute products. Her reasoning: It has to be something similar for chicken eggs.

Composition of Neggst Eggs

In its current form, the vegan egg is made up as follows: The yolk consists of sweet potatoes, proteins and carbohydrates, which together form the spherical, yellow yolk. In the egg white, proteins from legumes such as peas or field beans crosslink with vegetable sugar compounds to form a kind of gel.

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According to founder García Arteaga, the superfood field bean not only contains many nutrients and fiber, but is also naturally gluten-free. The researcher wants to secure her formula for the production of eggs and shells through a patent – ​​official approval is still pending. In future, the intellectual property rights will then lie with the start-up and the Fraunhofer Institute.

Although the development of the vegan Neggst egg is basically complete, it is still a long time coming. There are various reasons for this. First, the packaging is not yet certain. “We’re not yet mass-producing the eggshell because we’re investigating which packaging is best for sale,” says Marketing Manager Saskia Scheibel about “Gründerszene”.

How the vegan eggs are packaged also has an effect on the shelf life. It is conceivable that it will end up in a classic cardboard box. Also because consumers are used to it. Founder García Arteaga emphasizes: “Above all, we have to think sustainably, because we have two types of packaging at once – tray and box.”

Vegan fried eggs should come in 2023

The second reason relates to customer acceptance. The scientist and her team of eleven want to slowly introduce consumers to the egg substitute, “in the prepared state”, as CMO Scheibel puts it.

So before Neggst gets into the stationary trade, the way leads through the gastronomy. So far, the Berlin start-up has worked with four restaurants and a canteen, including the vegetarian gourmet restaurant Cookies Cream by star chef Stephan Hentschel.

“We met him at the end of 2021 and let him try our vegan fried egg,” says García Arteaga. “He was totally enthusiastic and started thinking about recipes right away.”

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End of the meat substitute boom

In the summer, six months later, the planning became concrete. The founder made the Neggst egg available to Hentschel in a slightly modified form – as a whisked liquid egg in a glass instead of in a shell. This will keep refrigerated for up to eight weeks.

Since then, the chef has been constantly experimenting in his kitchen, using the egg mixture in a potato waffle or a dish with beetroot, for example. In the course of the year, the vegan fried egg from the shell will also be used in gastronomy. In addition to bars, the start-up is in talks with various hotels, appears at food events and is trying to ramp up production at the same time. It wasn’t easy at first.

The founder: “We had to carry out a lot of tests. At the Fraunhofer I always worked with a machine that could produce a kilogram of eggs. The next step was then to increase the production volume to 20 kilograms, until we finally managed one ton.” The start-up is now working together with a larger food manufacturer, the founder does not reveal the name.

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Neggst produced around a tonne of liquid egg in February. This also has to do with Easter. The Austrian grocer Billa actively approached the Berlin start-up to carry out a test sale of the liquid egg in its supermarkets.

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“Easter is an important date for us because an extremely large number of chicken eggs are bought and used,” says CMO Saskia Scheibel. “Following the trial, we intend to be permanently available in retail soon.”

And how is the vegetable egg priced? The head of marketing is vague, comparing the current price for the liquid Neggst variant with a “high-quality organic egg”, i.e. between 60 and 70 cents. In the future, when the shell egg goes on sale, the start-up wants to become more affordable.

“In the long term, we are aiming for prices of an average egg, because we want to produce for the masses and not for the premium segment.” For a six-pack, that’s between three and four euros, says Scheibel.

Prominent investors rely on Neggst

In order to scale production and further expand the research team at Neggst, the start-up has secured money from investors twice so far. In 2021, founder García Arteaga raised “a few million” some of the Green Generation Fund by Glossybox founder Janna Ensthaler, who is Neggst’s largest investor to date. The jam manufacturer Zentis also took part.

In September 2022, the seed round of five million euros followed, in which the agricultural company Baywa and well-known business angels such as the former Infarm CFO and One.Five-Founder Martin Weber and former Beyond Meat CTO Bernhard van Lengerich joined the team.

But the competition never sleeps – the market for vegan egg substitutes is hot. Four former Lidl managers, for example, launched the brand The VGN last year, with which they want to market a liquid whole egg alternative based on fava beans for baking and cooking.

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Sustainability offensive

The Hamburg start-up Plant B has also developed a liquid egg made from lupins, which it is already selling in small Tetrapaks in Metro branches, at Billa and the Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn. A strategy similar to Neggst’s Berliner Start-up Perfeggtwhich was founded in 2021 by Kisura founder Tanja Bogumil, food investor Gary Lin and food technologist Bernd Becker, formerly at Rügenwalder Mühle.

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They first bring their whisked egg mixture, which can be used to make omelettes, carbonara and waffles, to customers via hotels and restaurants. They want to go into retail this year.

Nevertheless, scientist García Arteaga is convinced that with her two-component egg made from a natural shell she has created an innovation that no other supplier on the market has succeeded in doing so. With Neggst, for example, egg white and yolk could also be used separately. For non-vegans, this could be one more reason to switch to alternatives.

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