To the untrained eye, JUST Egg could appear to be full of contradictions. After all, while the plant-based egg replacement's name seems to evoke something pure and simple – the essence of egg, if you will – the understated packaging actually contains a processed egg replacement with an ingredients list the length of which would cause most natural foodies to flee.
But don't run quite yet.
JUST co-founder and CEO Josh Tetrick is sick of “processed” being a bad word – and he’s ready to show people why.
“I think part of the reason that processed food has a bad connotation is because processed food has become synonymous with a hidden process," he says. "A shadowy, mysterious process."
Take the mystery out of the process, and it suddenly becomes something far easier to come to terms with. After all, cheese, bread, and yogurt are all “processed” foods – they’re just made via processes that hold few secrets for modern foodies.
In the same vein, JUST is attempting to pull back the veil and show consumers that the process of making its egg replacement is clean, sustainable, and healthful.
“I hope that more companies can think that if you just show people what's up, they end up feeling a lot better about it,” Tetrick says. “And for us, showing people what's up is going, 'OK, it starts with a bean.’”
The base of JUST Egg is the mung bean, a legume native to Asia that’s rich in protein, fiber, and antioxidants. This bean is milled into a flour, and the proteins, fats, fibers, and starches are subsequently separated. Oil, water, flavorings, and a few other ingredients are added to create a healthy, delicious liquid scramble replacement that cooks up just like an egg.
Tough Beginnings, A Bright Future
JUST got its start as Hampton Creek in the summer of 2011. Founded by Tetrick and Josh Balk, the company sought from its very beginning to create a cheaper plant-based egg product boasting the same taste and texture as chicken eggs.
But Hampton Creek encountered its fair share of difficulty. While the company successfully released plant-based Beyond Eggs, Just Mayo, and Just Cookies, it also faced off with Unilever, the owner of Hellman's, which demonized the company for calling its eggless product "mayo." The company later became embroiled in a buyback scandal and a safety recall of its product at Target.
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But the company has since rebranded as JUST, and ever since, it has been met with great acclaim in the natural food world, particularly for its flagship product.
JUST Egg was designed to be a scrambled egg replacement, but it’s so much more than a breakfast food. JUST Egg can stand in for beaten eggs in pretty much any recipe, from quiche to pancakes to cookies.
Now, JUST is launching in India – home of the mung bean – and it’s also launching the third version of its scrambled egg substitute, which promises to be tastier and healthier than ever before.
Reinventing the Wheel
With a deeper flavor and a creamier texture than the previous two iterations of the product, JUST Egg V3, which will be available to the public in 2020, is only the first in a long line of new JUST Egg recipes. The company is planning to launch a new version of the product every year, with a goal of improving the product in three distinct areas.
Firstly, the company is looking for improved taste: more richness, more depth, more creaminess, and a deeper umami flavor. The company is also looking to add the sulphureous quality of a chicken egg to the product – something that American and European consumers enjoy – by way of naturally sulphur-containing plant-based ingredients, like broccoli.
Secondly, the company wants to continue its work in making the product more cost-effective and efficient to produce, ultimately making it more affordable for the end consumer.
Finally, JUST is seeking to make JUST Egg even healthier – not just than previous versions of the product, but than chicken eggs themselves.
"When we think about health, and nutrition, one way to think about it is, 'OK, what is an egg? Let's just be like that,'" he says. "But another – and we think better – way to think about it is, what does evidence – real, empirical evidence – say about what is healthy?"
Tetrick notes, for example, that he has set his sights on creating a JUST Egg that is rich in antioxidants, despite the fact that chicken eggs are relatively poor in the phytonutrients. And that's not where the improvements will end.
“In subsequent versions, we want to add functionalities that maybe an egg doesn't have,” says Tetrick. “How do we improve on it? How do we think about nutrition in a much broader way? How do we think about functionality in a much broader way? How do we think about cost in a much lower way. That, for us, is a bigger protein opportunity than just an egg.”
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