Cracking Fermentation: The World’s First Animal-Free Egg White

Clara Foods, a biotech company based in San Francisco, is leveraging precision fermentation technology to develop animal-free egg proteins. The start-up has developed a way to produce lab-cultured egg whites that are ‘nature identical’ to proteins found in animal-derived eggs.

“We’re creating a technology platform that leverages precision fermentation to create real egg proteins without the chicken in the equation,” explained Chief Technology Officer Ranjan Patnaik.

Due to the growing demand for plant-based alternatives, the egg replacement market has risen in recent years. The global egg replacement ingredient market is expected to register a CAGR of 5.8 percent between 2019 and 2026, with an anticipated call of €1.53 billion just five years from now, according to Future Market Insights.

Previously, aquafaba, flaxseeds, and chia have been used to mimic egg whites, Clara Foods, however, is focused on making proteins found in eggs through fermentation.

“Our approach has been to make sure that the taste, texture, and culinary functionality of these proteins matter. At the end of the day, we have to make sure consumers accept the molecules and ingredients we are making,” said Patnaik.

The CTO went on to explain that for Clara, egg whites have hundreds of proteins and so does the yolk.

“From a precision fermentation perspective, we are really opening the egg up at a molecular and individual protein level.”

Clara Foods kickstarts the precision fermentation process by mixing two ingredients: sugar and yeast. From there, it uses advanced yeast engineering and fermentation technologies to selectively cultivate the perfect strain of yeast. The result is a protein tailored for purpose, whether egg albumen for baking, environmentally friendly antimicrobials, or pure, clean protein.

The biotech company is working to disrupt the conventional egg market with the development of ingredients for sports nutrition, baking, and other industrial uses. In the culinary space, the company has successfully used its ingredients to make vegan meringues, and scrambled egg alternatives.

“Mining the egg opens up some new functionalities that were not possible to access through complete egg whites,” continued Patnaik.

“Some proteins might be good at foaming and not good at emulsification, but the ability to address them individually, or in combinations - because we have access to individual proteins as ingredients - enables us to address all of them. And sometimes we discover new functionalities.”

In 2019, Clara Foods signed a global partnership agreement with Ingredion to jointly develop, market and distribute its products. The agreement has allowed Clara Foods to access new markets and continuously work with new bakeries around the world.

While the start-up is currently concentrating on a rollout across North America, it recognises that the egg is ubiquitous around the world. The company’s intent is to address everywhere eggs are used, especially in places where there is plenty of history of fermentation technology.