These days, most people are eating at home more, and every grocery trip presents a new opportunity to discover something new. And what better a time of day to try something new than during breakfast; consumer breakfast trends already show us shifting toward healthier, protein-rich alternatives. JUST, a San Francisco-based startup that has raised approximately $300 million and is valued at $1.2 billion to “build a food system where everyone has access to delicious, nutritious food,” wants to be at the forefront of this shift. So just last year, it launched JUST Egg, a plant-based egg “packed with clean, sustainable protein and scrambles and tastes like eggs,” according to the company.
The egg industry truly is an age-old industry that hasn’t seen much innovation until now, as major egg companies begin partnering with JUST. Recently, I sat down with the company’s Head of Global Communications Andrew Noyes to learn more about the industry and how JUST Egg plans to make its plant-based eggs ubiquitous.
Animal cruelty central to the egg industry
From day one, chicks often grow up in harsh conditions. And when they grow up, they become one of the most abused of all farm animals. While female chickens are valuable because they help lay eggs, it’s a different story for male chicks. In fact, a whopping 260 million male chicks are killed upon hatching.
For the female chicks that survive, they are put to work. With about 100,000 others per egg production facility, each chicken is expected to lay one egg each per day. To the egg industry, it’s all about unit economics. And if a chicken is unable to deliver, there’s no business value.
The egg industry has its fair share of environmental implications too. For instance, raising chickens can cause the contamination of surrounding water bodies and soil. Additionally, greenhouse gas emissions are a cause for concern as well.
It’s a harsh reality, but this system is the bread and butter of the $10 billion egg production industry. And as eggs are a staple in most Americans’ diets, the system scales up to keep up with demand.
JUST Egg takes a more sustainable approach and sees promising growth
Just one year after launching its flagship product, JUST makes enough plant protein each week for the equivalent of 9.6 million eggs, Noyes says. Not only can the company do the work of about a hundred egg production facilities, there are environmental implications too.
“Our ingredients use 98% less water, have a 93% smaller carbon footprint and use 86% less land than conventional animal sources, making it one of the most sustainable protein sources on the planet,” Noyes explains.
Is it possible to see widespread adoption of plant-based eggs?
While one might think that customers are only vegans, the company’s consumer studies directly contradict that assumption. 77% of its customers identify as meat eaters (omnivores or flexitarians), 21% are non-meat eaters, including 10% vegetarians, and 6% vegans, Noyes explains.
“Nearly 70% of respondents said they planned to eat more plant-based proteins for breakfast in the next year; 63% said they intended to eat more plant-based 1-3 more times per week.”
The demand for plant-based eggs seems to already be there — and it’s growing rapidly according to the Good Food Institute. Combined that with climate change adding pressure for people to reconsider their ecological footprints. Additionally, around 77 percent of Americans claim that sustainability factors into their food purchases.
JUST Egg confident it will lead the plant-based egg space
The company itself believes it will continue to be the market leader in a surprisingly uncrowded market.
“While other plant-based categories like meat and dairy are very crowded, JUST Egg is the dominant player in the egg space. We’re already in 10,000 retail doors and 1,000 foodservice locations in the U.S. We have already sold the plant-based equivalent of 40 million eggs and we’re just getting started,” Noyes tells me.
Lauren Beauban is an Editorial Fellow at theRising, where she covers sustainability news and influential people in the industry. She is also interested in environmental policy and how it affects people. You can pitch her stories at firstname.lastname@example.org