I wasn't surprised when Joanne Ivy, president and CEO, American Egg Board (AEB), said, "I cannot tell you how many calls and e-mails that I have gotten from egg producers. It is a huge threat the way they are publicizing Beyond Eggs to consumers." It has been hard to miss mentions of Beyond Eggs in the popular press over the last five months. Egg Industry even received an inquiry from a New York Times reporter asking about the product, but the request came from a journalist covering the technology not the culinary beat.
High tech heroes
Ivy told the audience at the United Egg Producers' annual meeting that Beyond Eggs isn't the first egg replacer to hit the market. "We know that Beyond Eggs has gotten a lot of publicity, but, if you are a further processor, you know that egg replacements have been around for a long time," she said. "This truthfully is not much different than any other egg replacers that have been out there. There are other plant-based egg replacers; this is not a huge new item. What makes it so visible is that it's got Bill Gates, PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel and HSUS all endorsing this product. There was a very similar product several years ago that didn't make it."
The "endorsements," financial and otherwise, by high tech heroes like Gates and Thiel have attracted a lot of media attention, in spite of their lack of culinary credentials. For many in the media there seems to be an expectation that successful entrepreneurs in the computer world will also know how to pick winners in the grocery aisles.
Ivy characterized the public relations approach for Beyond Eggs as "very aggressive," and she stressed that the target market for the product is large food manufacturers. AEB has initiated a clean label campaign to counter the efforts of the makers of Beyond Eggs.
Clean label campaign
"Consumers and food manufacturers want a clean label; with Beyond Eggs it will not be a clean label," Ivy said. "Not with all of the ingredients it takes to make this product. We have developed a website and advertising campaign to address this."
The clean label campaign educates food processors about the continued growth of the natural trend in consumer purchases. The campaign's white paper, "The Egg & Clean Labeling," describes a type of consumer, the "Aware Shopper," which tops the list of Innova Market Insights' food and beverage predictions for 2013. The Aware Shopper is described as informed and knowledgeable about health and value, and Aware Shoppers are said to be key drivers in shaping the clean label trend.
According to the white paper, "More and more consumers are redefining the qualities they value in the foods they eat and taking healthy diets and eating habits into their own hands. Fresh, safe, natural, healthy and chemical free are now the key words people use to describe what they're looking for."
These shoppers, with support from consumer advocacy groups, lobbyists, non-governmental organizations and politicians, are pushing the food and beverage industry for simplicity, transparency and credibility. Answering their concerns isn't difficult, and according to Innova, "Simple, clear labels on products send the transparency message to consumers."
The focus of the campaign is that eggs are one simple ingredient with over 20 functional properties that provide the natural, clean label solution that consumers want and food processors need.