JUST Egg mung bean protein gets EU approval, launch expected ‘before end of year’

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Mung bean (Vigna struck out​) the protein is now a new authorized food in Europe. It can be used in protein analogues or substitutes for standard products, such as meat, fish or eggs.

The clearance comes just over two years after US-based Eat Just, Inc. submitted its application for approval of the protein – the key ingredient in its plant-based egg substitute JUST Egg – in March 2020, and less than six months after European approval. Positive opinion of the Food Safety Authority on the novel food.

In October last year, the European agency’s scientific opinion ruled that protein powder extracted from the seeds of the mung bean plant was ‘not nutritionally disadvantageous’ and safe under the conditions and proposed levels of use.

In EFSA’s analyses, she noted that mung beans are widely consumed in Asia and are structurally related to seed storage proteins in other widely consumed legumes, such as soybeans, lupine and peas.

Eat Just eyes German and Dutch markets

For Eat Just, the market approval by the Commission represents a “historic” moment. Mung bean protein is the first new legume protein to be considered safe under the EU Novel Foods Regime.

According to the approval, Eat Just’s use of mung bean protein for plant-based egg products cannot be leveraged by other food companies seeking to introduce similar products for a period of five years, unless these companies do not obtain authorization through the same novel food application process in the same way. .

Following market approval covering countries belonging to the European Union and the European Free Trade Association, Eat Just plans to launch its JUST Egg product across the Atlantic in the fourth quarter of this year.

“Germany and the Netherlands are key targets for JUST Egg”, ​explained Andrew Noyes, Head of Global Communications and Public Affairs, Eat Just, Inc.

The UK is also of interest, he revealed. Eat Just is actively engaging with the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) on a regulatory path to market.

Eat Just is considering multiple sales channels. “Our team has spoken to retail and foodservice partners across the continent who have expressed interest in stocking JUST Egg once we have received regulatory approval and can begin sales and distribution on the whole continent, Noyes told this publication.

Food and supply

Eat Just’s Mung Bean Protein is isolated from dried mung bean seeds through a sequence of processing steps that culminate in a drying process. The final ingredient is approximately 85% protein, 3-4% fat, and 3-5.5% moisture.

In the US, JUST Egg’s ingredient list includes mung bean protein isolate, pressed canola oil, dehydrated onion, natural carrot and turmeric extracts for color and potassium citrate, among other ingredients.

One serving contains 70 kcal, 5 g fat, 5 g protein, 170 mg sodium and is free of sugars and cholesterol.

The company sources mung beans from “various regions” of the world, including Asia and Africa. For Europe, protein processing will be done in Germany at an Eat Just facility built in partnership with ingredient supplier Emsland Group.

“This facility will help ensure a manufacturing infrastructure for JUST Egg that is reliable, efficient and scalable as we enter new European markets,” Noye said.

Can the vegetable egg be called “egg” in Europe?

While getting approval for its mung bean protein is a “monumental milestone”, that doesn’t mean Europeans should expect to see JUST Egg on supermarket shelves in the coming weeks.

“Our team is working on a few remaining regulatory checks as well as packaging design, securing the first sales and distribution partnerships, and other activities as we prepare to bring JUST Egg to our first European countries,” Noye said.

07 Folded Recipe
Image credit: Eat Just, Inc.

In Europe, the marketing of plant-based alternatives has been controversial lately. In 2017, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that purely vegetable products could no longer use dairy names, such as “milk”, “butter”, “cheese” or “yogurt”.

In 2020, the European Parliament voted against banning the terminology “meaty” for plant-based alternatives, meaning that “burger”, “sausage” or “steak” for vegetarian and vegan alternatives can still be used.

So what about the “egg”? Will Eat Just be able to market its plant-based egg alternative under the name “JUST Egg”? Christofer Eggers, a partner at global law firm Squire Patton Boggs in Frankfurt, Germany, suggested that “could be a challenge”.

“Novel Food approval simply indicates that the product is safe for consumption. information on foodstuffs always applies”, he told FoodNavigator.

“There is a mandatory name for this [product] and they can’t call it “JUST Eggs” because it’s not an egg product.

Eggers referred to a recent case in the Düsseldorf District Court, in which the name “SKYR STYLE” (Skyr is an Icelandic cultured dairy product) for a soy product was banned.

“It can be a challenge to market a ‘JUST Egg’ product without misleading the consumer.”

What about the UK?

As Eat Just’s head of global communications and public affairs noted, Eat Just is working on the UK’s regulatory process in parallel. Since the UK has withdrawn from the EU, separate approval of novel foods is required using the FSA’s Regulated Products Inquiry service.

Granting novel food approval in the EU does not guarantee that the UK’s FSA will also approve the product as safe, explained director Nicola Smith of Squire Patton Boggs’ office in Birmingham, although any EFSA advice is “generally” taken into account as part of the data taken into account in the FSA assessment.

Indeed, the UK’s Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes was due to discuss the application for approval on March 24, 2022, in order to consider the applicant’s response to its request for additional information (the FSA having first received a submission from Eat Just, Inc. for mung bean protein in January 2021), we were told.

“However, the EU Food Information to Consumers Regulation continues to apply in the UK as retained law, after the end of the Brexit transition period. As noted [by colleague Eggers]this requires that food information should not be misleading (Article 7) and there may be concerns that labeling a vegetable protein as ‘egg’ may be contrary to these provisions. »

Eat Just’s Noyes told us that the company is still working on this issue and ultimately what it may call its products may vary by country.

“Significant” interest from retail and catering in Europe

Eat Just is confident that once launched, the product will be well received in the new market. “Forward-thinking consumers in Europe have

JE_Mushroom spinach pan-fried omelette 5972 SQ
Image credit: Eat Just, Inc.

asks JUST Egg since the day of its launch in the United States”, ​according to Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of Eat Just.

“Whether it’s because of climate change, health or a connection to animals, demand has been strong, as has interest from retail and foodservice partners.

“I am grateful for the recent approval, which opens the door to begin distribution across Europe before the end of the year.”

Indeed, if we are to believe sales in the United States, the category is clearly gaining ground. Last year, the plant-based egg category saw a 42% increase in retail dollar sales, according to data from the Plant Based Foods Association, the Good Food Institute (GFI), and SPINS.

Over the past three years, sales of plant-based eggs in the United States have increased by more than 1,000%. And Just Egg claims to represent over 99% of the market.

In Europe, an increasing number of plant-based egg substitutes have entered the market in recent years. These include egg substitutes from Terra Vegane, Biovegan, Pure Raw, Simply Eggless and Zero Egg.

However, according to a 2021 pan-European survey by ProVeg, in partnership with Innova Market Insights, University of Copenhagen and University of Ghent, flexitarian consumers want more choice in plant-based foods.

“We’ve seen that almost half of flexitarians believe there aren’t enough plant-based choices in supermarkets and restaurants and Just Egg’s product will help meet consumer demand and strengthen which is already a booming market for herbal products,” said Stephanie Jaczniakowska-McGirr, food industry and retail manager at ProVeg International.

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