By Danielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN Business
(CNN) — The plant-based trend is about more than burgers: Plant-based eggs are coming to Kroger.
The major grocery chain is already stocking Just Egg, made with mung beans, in some of its locations. Over the coming weeks, the product will be offered in about 2,100 Kroger-owned stores, including Kroger, Ralphs and Fred Meyer.
Customers will be able to find Just Egg, a cholesterol-free liquid packaged in a 12-ounce bottle, in the egg aisle. When you cook it up in a skillet, it looks like a pale yellow scrambled egg.
A partnership with Kroger is “a big deal,” said Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of Just, the company that makes Just Egg.
It’s also a sign that interest in plant-based alternatives to animal products is hitting the mainstream. Consumers are turning to the substitutes to reduce their impact on the planet and eat healthier. And it’s not just vegans: Today, flexitarian eaters are buying products like Just Egg along with meat and dairy.
Overall, US retail sales of plant-based foods have grown 11% in the past year, according to a July report from trade group Plant Based Foods Association and the Good Food Institute, a nonprofit that supports plant-based businesses.
And experts think that the plant-based sector is going to balloon over the next several years. Barclays predicts the alternative meat sector could reach about $140 billion over the next decade, capturing about 10% of the global meat industry.
Just, which used to be called Hampton Creek, says it has sold more than 10 million egg equivalents. Tim Hortons and dining service Aramark are offering Just Egg in some locations. Last year, it launched in retail for the first time. Today, Just Egg is available at over 3,000 stores, not including Kroger, and more than 500 restaurants.
But the company has faced setbacks in the past. It was briefly under investigation by the government after a 2016 Bloomberg story alleged it artificially inflated demand for its mayo with fake shoppers. Andrew Noyes, head of global communications for Just, told CNN Business that there were no fake shoppers.
“In the very early days of the company, we employed ambassadors to conduct sampling at stores, which is a common practice in the industry,” he said. The company commissioned an audit that refuted the claims, Noyes said, and government agencies found no wrongdoing.
The company also faced a lawsuit from Hellman’s mayonnaise maker Unilever, which argued that Just Mayo does not meet the legal definition of mayonnaise since it isn’t made with eggs. Unilever ultimately dropped the suit and now sells its own version of egg-free mayo.
Today, Just remains ambitious.
Tetrick wants people to see Just Egg not just as an egg alternative, but as a healthy source of protein. That’s partially why the company isn’t too concerned about making look exactly like a real egg.
And though the product, at $7.99, is more expensive than an equivalent amount of egg, Tetrick hopes that in the next few years it will be the cheapest protein available.
“Our goal is to get below five cents per what we call ‘egg equivalent’ in the next handful of years,” he said. And be “more cost effective than beef or pork or chicken.”
In addition to Just Egg, the company sells plant-based dressings, mayo and cookie dough. It plans to one day sell cultured meat.
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