After years of dominating the market for plant-based eggs,
Eat Just Inc. is getting some competition from one of the oldest plant-based proteins available: tofu.
Hodo Inc., an Oakland, California-based tofu maker, is launching its faux-egg scramble later this month, with plans to have the product available in about 1,500 supermarkets by mid-June, the company told Bloomberg News.
We noticed that outside of Just Egg there is not much innovation in the egg space. We started tinkering with our current recipe to make the texture and flavor more like scrambled egg, said founder and Chief Executive Officer Minh Tsai. I think its probably going to be our fastest-selling product a year from now.
There are trends in Hodos favor. Consumers are still looking to add more plants to their diet, despite the stagnancy of sales of meat-alternative products, said Dasha Shor, an analyst at Mintel. Now, she said, they are looking for more-natural options. We are seeing the processing backlash happening, Shor said, noting that 60% of U.S. plant-based protein consumers say they would eat more meat alternatives if they were less processed.
Tofu seems to fit the bill. But despite being one of the oldest plant-based proteins, its still modest in sales compared with meat substitutes. Sales of tofu totaled $285 million in the U.S. in 2021, while meat and seafood substitutes brought in $1.8 billion that year, according to data from Euromonitor. Both look paltry compared with sales of real eggs, which totaled $9.8 billion last year.
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Tofus relatively low sales are partly attributable to consumers hesitation about foods they arent used to cooking, something that Hodo has recognized with its long list of flavored, cubed and otherwise ready-to-eat or ready-to-cook products. Its scramble is similar: It has the short list of ingredients expected from tofu, but the convenience of going right into the pan or microwave for cooking.
The companys compound annual growth rate over the last five years is 20%, said Tsai, and he expects sales to top $25 million this year. Its products are sold through nearly 10,000 retailers and more than 5,000 restaurants, including chains like
Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and
Sweetgreen Inc., as well as high-end eateries like the Slanted Door in San Francisco.
Going up against Eat Just, however, will mean taking on a company with more than 43,000 points of retail distribution and 1,500 food-service locations in North America alone. The faux-egg maker also sells in Asia and Africa, and it has an
eye on Europe now that it has approval there. Eat Just says it owns more than 99% of the U.S. vegan-egg market. Its egg is also more versatile — it can be used for baking, for example — and comes in a number of formats.
Tsai praises his competitor but still thinks theres room for competition. Functionally, Just wins, he said, but from an ingredient simplicity and taste perspective, I think we compete well.