Eggs are common to many baked goods, but consumers have a number of reasons why they might want to forgo the ingredient. That leaves bakery producers scrambling for an egg replacer—and because eggs serve a number of different purposes on and in baked goods, not just any replacement will do.

To learn more about the ins and outs of egg replacements in baking, Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery connected with Kwee Choo Ng, an expert on rice ingredients and functional proteins with Beneo.

Jenni Spinner: Could you please share your perspective on some of the most notable trends in baked goods we’re seeing in the market? Please feel free to talk about anything from ingredients to flavors, to clean labels, etc.

Kwee Choo Ng: Overall, we see that there is an unbroken desire for moments of indulgence, but rising demand to do it in a conscious way. One in two U.S. consumers say they look for something that will satisfy an unhealthy craving in a healthier way. To be able to assess how healthy a product is, transparency is key: three in four U.S. consumers say they like it when brands include nutrition education on the packaging (e.g. explaining ingredients).

Conscious indulgence is far more than just healthy eating. With increasing awareness of the impact of people’s diet on the planet’s health, also the quest for plant-based products increases. Overall, there is a recognizable desire for products that deliver well-being for people and the planet. That’s not only true for more ‘classic’ fields such as plant-based meat alternatives. Plant-based snacks and baked solutions are gaining more and more traction. According to Beneo’s global plant-based survey in 2021, one in four U.S. consumers said they already buy plant-based bakery products. While another 29% didn’t buy plant-based bakery but said they would be interested in these products. This is also mirrored in the offer on shelf: while only 1% of sweet bakery goods had a vegan claim in 2016, by 2021, 13% were making this claim, demonstrating that producers are rising to the challenge by responding with more products that carry a vegan or plant-based claim. Plant-based bakery and desserts have become a promising category for food manufacturers. 

We expect the trend for conscious indulgence to continue along with the enduring consumer focus on clean-label, non-GMO alternatives, and better-for-you options such as protein- and fiber-enriched bakery. 

JS: People are increasingly interested in egg-free baked goods, whether it be to fit a plant-based diet, deal with allergies, or some other reason. Could you please share a bit about the various reasons folks might seek out egg-free goods, and the challenges that present to producers?

KCN: As noted, there are several reasons why consumers are interested in egg-free baked goods. Beyond individual factors such as diet restrictions or allergies, aspects such as animal welfare and the impact of farming/production of food products on the planet play an increasing role, too. People are now considering what is healthy for them but also what is good for the earth. Thus, ingredients with sustainability credentials have a key role to play in consumer choices.  A survey conducted on behalf of Beneo reported that around 3 in 4 consumers globally consider it important how food is manufactured and what ingredients are contained in those foods. They are also equally concerned about climate change and the environment.

Besides meeting the rising demand from consumers for egg-free baked goods, manufacturers are also seeking affordable alternatives to upward egg prices. 

When one ingredient is replaced with another there are always challenges to manufacturing processes as well as how to create recipes that deliver consumers’ desires for health benefits as well as pleasant taste and texture of the end product. However, replacing eggs in baked goods creates a very specific set of challenges for recipe formulation. 

Eggs have a multi-functional impact on the final product in terms of taste and texture. Eggs can be used for foaming and aeration, texturizing, emulsification, color, and flavor, and can also be used as a glazing agent. This is why, depending on the type of application, an egg alternative has to deliver on the entire range of technical properties. 

JS: Baked goods can’t always just leave out the eggs—they need a stand-in. Could you please talk about the various roles an egg might play in baked goods, and what types of egg replacers perform which functions?

KCN: The Beneo Technology Center has been trialing ingredients for successful egg-free recipes and found that faba bean protein concentrate can serve as a suitable solution for partial and total replacement of whole eggs, egg whites, and egg yolks. At the same time, the ingredient also offers clean label and cost reduction benefits.

Made from de-hulled faba beans via a dry fractionation process, Beneo’s faba bean protein concentrate is a natural and clean label plant-based protein source that is light yellow in color and has a relatively neutral, mild beany taste. Containing a minimum of 60% protein on dry matter, the concentrate also has an excellent essential amino acids profile and very good emulsifying properties as well as solubility, making it the perfect solution for egg replacement. 

Initial successes have included the development of an egg-free plant-based muffin. With a pleasant taste and texture, the muffin contains faba bean protein concentrate at a reduced dosage than would have been needed if eggs were used, resulting in the potential for lower recipe costs. Beneo’s prebiotic chicory root fiber, Orafti Oligofructose, was also included to replace milk powder and to contribute to the taste and color of the final product. At the same time, its use increased the fiber content. Manufacturers wanting to further improve the nutritional profile of their plant-based muffins can increase the dosage of Orafti Oligofructose to enable sugar reduction.  

This is an important development, not just for plant-based reformulation but also in light of cost reductions, as key raw materials like eggs have seen significant price increases. The addition of faba bean protein concentrate also means that nutritional claims in the context of protein content can be added on-pack if the conditions of use are fulfilled.

JS: Specifically, Beneo did some interesting exploration into the potential of faba bean as an egg replacer—can you tell us about that research, and the findings you ended up with?

KCN: As mentioned above, we did several prototype trials in the field of egg replacement with faba bean ingredients. We see that it is very application-dependent to what extent manufacturers can abstain from eggs. In muffins and shortbread, it demonstrated to be possible to replace eggs completely while achieving a pleasant taste and texture. Another successful example of full egg replacement is a plant-based meringue, where faba bean concentrate acts as a 100% substitute for white egg. However, we encountered some limits when it comes to a pound cake. Here, a total replacement has not proven successful but it has been possible to replace 50% of the eggs in the recipe to achieve an appealing result.  

When talking about aspects such as a CO2 footprint or cost efficiency, a reduction of half of the eggs is already a good achievement. Beneo is continuing to work on extending the scope of egg-free bakery products as well as improving recipes. 

JS: Then, please share some of the other potential solutions Beneo offers for snack and bakery producers looking for egg replacers.

KCN: For now, faba bean concentrate is the only solution in our portfolio to replace eggs. However, other products from our portfolio can be a good match for egg-free formulations. When it comes to the plant-based muffin, we also added Orafti®Fiber to decrease sugar content (by 25%) while increasing the fiber content of the product sixfold. Also, Beneo rice starch was used to optimize the muffin’s texture.