In late 2022, something strange happened in the US egg market: per unit, consumer prices for plant-based eggs fell below prices for chicken eggs. While the phenomenon is likely to be temporary, it is undeniable that at least one corner of the plant-based food market can be cost competitive. And consumers seem to have noticed – sales of plant-based eggs have increased over the same period.
Average U.S. prices for chicken eggs, which industry experts refer to as “shell eggs,” rose 51 percent last year, according to data firm IRI, with an average price per unit of $4.17 (or 3.85 euro). A unit may refer to a carton of six, 12 or 18 eggs. Over the same 52-week period, unit prices for plant-based eggs averaged $4.43 (€4.09).
But in the last 12 weeks of the year, things have changed. Shell egg prices have increased by 81% compared to the same period in 2021, with an average price per unit of $5.24 (€4.84). Prices for plant-based eggs, meanwhile, have fallen slightly – averaging $4.42 (€4.08).
That made plant-based eggs “almost a dollar cheaper per unit,” says John Crawford, IRI’s vice president for dairy customers, who described the rise in the price of chicken eggs as “ridiculously high.” The number of shell eggs sold per unit decreased in the fourth quarter of 2022 compared to the previous year, while plant-based liquid egg sales per unit increased.
This is good news for environmental experts. The food system is responsible for about a third of global emissions, thanks in large part to the land needed to raise and feed animals for meat and dairy products, and it requires a ton of water.
But where two of the biggest players in the plant-based food world – Beyond meat and Lean foods – struggling to gain market share over traditional meat, the vegan egg market has better luck.
A lot of it has to do with the chaos in the rest of the egg world. The skyrocketing prices of shell eggs are due to inflation and bird flu affecting millions of laying hens.says Crawford.
the phenomenon Only egg
For now, the market for plant-based eggs remains minuscule – $30 million (nearly €28 million) in the US, where vegan eggs make up about 8.5% of all liquid egg sales, but just 0.13% of total egg sales. About 99% of sales in the liquid plant-based egg category come from a single brand: Only eggmanufactured by the company Eat Simplybased in California.
“We’ve invested a lot of time and energy into improving our products, expanding retail and food distribution, and working to introduce the idea that an egg can come from a plant. millions of young peoplesays Josh Tetrick, its executive director Eat Simply. “All of these are driving growth and strengthening right now.”
Eat Simply uses mung bean as the base for the Only eggwhich has been available in the US since 2019. The consumer cost of a 354 milliliter package Only eggequivalent to about eight real eggs, was close to $8, or 7.40 euros, at the end of 2019, more than 1.5 times the price at the end of 2022.
THE Eat Simply says that product sales Only egg at grocery stores, health food stores and large retailers increased 17% in the 52-week period ending December 3, 2022.
As the rising price of shell eggs gives a temporary boost to plant-based alternatives, Eat Simply enjoying the moment. On Sunday, the company posted a full page on New York Times which said: “Plants don’t catch the flu.”
The company also markets its product as cholesterol-free eggs and eggs that are better for the environment. Eat Simply estimates it has saved around 41 billion liters of water and 65,296 square kilometers of land use since its inception by making eggs from plants instead of chickens. It also estimates that it will avoid emissions of 52.3 million kilograms of carbon dioxide carbon equivalent, equivalent to taking more than 11,000 cars off the road in a year.