By Eric Peterson | Aug 02, 2020
San Francisco, California
Plant-based egg substitutes
Tetrick says Eat JUST's mission is "to build a food system where everyone eats well."
The solution involves reinventing a staple with healthy ingredients. "Our focus since day one has been to make a plant-based version of the chicken egg, the most consumed animal protein in the world. Our flagship product JUST Egg launched nationally last year and now comes in two formats: a pourable liquid perfect for scrambles, omelets, quiches, stir-fries, and a wide variety of baking applications; and a fluffy, pre-baked folded egg patty, ideal on top of toast or inside a breakfast sandwich."
The protein-packed JUST Egg launched nationally in 2019 and is now available in liquid and pre-baked formats. It is cholesterol- and dairy-free, non-GMO, and notably sustainable. "Its ingredients use 98 percent less water, 86 percent less land, and emit 93 percent less CO2 than conventional animal sources," says Tetrick.
Released after a plant-based mayo that debuted in 2013, the JUST Egg hatched out of five years of R&D began by rethinking traditional supply chains with cutting-edge systems. "We built a unique plant library that consists of plants sourced from over 70 countries and we study them at the molecular and functional level using custom-built robotics and high-throughput automated research systems," Tetrick explains. "Each is examined for food-related functional abilities, such as emulsification, gelation, foaming, and others. It is from this process that we discovered the magic of the mung bean. We'd tested dozens of species of beans, but this varietal of the mung bean stood out. Its protein can gel in a pan and emulsify oils, just like a conventional egg."
"Our business model is focusing on what we do best: deep R&D with a proprietary technology platform, product development, and brand, and working with downstream partners, including some of the biggest food companies in the world, including conventional egg companies, to manufacture, sell and distribute our products to retail and foodservice customers."
Employees are based at the headquarters in San Francisco; a factory in Appleton, Minnesota; and an office in Shanghai. It's a multidisciplinary group, notes Tetrick. "Our world-class team of scientists and researchers leverage a one-of-a-kind discovery platform for food ingredient innovation, and Michelin-starred chefs combine these discoveries with decades of culinary expertise to create delicious, accessible, healthier, and more sustainable products."
The supply chain is likewise global. "Today we source mung beans, the key ingredient in JUST Egg, from Asia and Africa and have spent a considerable amount of time diversifying and solidifying our supply chain," says Tetrick.
To date, Eat JUST has raised about $300 million from such investors as Khosla Ventures, Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang, and Salesforce founder Marc Benioff.
A year after its national rollout, JUST Egg is outpacing other plant-based foods in terms of sales growth. "We've already sold the plant-based equivalent of nearly 50 million eggs," says Tetrick, noting that sales of 12-ounce JUST Egg increased by 79 percent at U.S. groceries from February to June in 2020.
Tetrick says his upbringing in Alabama was instrumental in developing the company's business model. "I was raised by a mom who worked hard at a hair salon to make ends meet and support me and my younger brother. We didn't have enough money to eat healthier, more expensive food so when we had a few dollars in our pockets, we'd eat food that tasted good and food that we could afford -- nacho cheese and chips, Burger King chicken sandwiches, and vending machine cinnamon rolls. Typically, if it tastes really good, and you can afford it, it's accelerating chronic disease and climate change. That's how broken our existing food system is, but I didn't realize it until adulthood. I started this company to try to help fix it."
Challenges: The entrenched -- and flawed -- global food system. "Fortunately, people are thinking more now than ever before about our global food system and how human, animal and planetary health are interconnected," says Andrew Noyes, head of global communications. "All of us have a responsibility to work together to build a safer, more secure and more sustainable food future."
Opportunities: International expansion. Eat JUST has cemented numerous partnerships to manufacture and distribute JUST Egg across North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. "We are working hard to create a global infrastructure, which includes millions of additional points of potential distribution and access to production facilities on multiple continents, to provide the scale needed to meet the increasing worldwide demand for JUST Egg," says Tetrick. "In December, we expanded our protein-manufacturing operations to include a 30,000-square-foot factory and 40 acres of land in Appleton, Minnesota. Earlier this spring, we announced a partnership to expand that capacity further into Europe and beyond with Emsland Group, a worldwide leader in manufacturing raw materials from vegetables based in Germany."
JUST Egg will launch in Canada before the end of 2020, he adds, joining Chin and Singapore as active markets for the company. "In Europe, we're continuing to work with regulators on a pathway to market and we have large retail and food-service customers who are excited to make the product available as well as a growing consumer fan base who wants to be able to buy JUST Egg."
New products are also growth catalysts, Tetrick notes. "Our new frozen, folded JUST Egg, which launched in April, has been a huge success right out of the gate," says Tetrick, citing industry-leading velocity in the natural channel. JUST is also working on a Wagyu-style beef produced with "cellular agriculture."
Needs: Talent. "We're hiring," says Tetrick, highlighting open positions at the manufacturing facility.
"We've recently taken out billboards and radio ads in western Minnesota to attract talent and the results have been very positive," adds Noyes.