Bay Area company reinvents the egg

July 25, 2013 8:23:57 PM PDT
Chefs will tell you, you still have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. But researchers at Hampton Creek Foods in San Francisco are working to change that.

Senior Scientist Doug Ivey, Ph.D., showed off their latest creation: Scrambled eggs made without eggs.

"I can tell you that it is a bean, and it has the gelling qualities that allow it to scramble like an egg," says Ivey.

Hampton Creek is located in a loft-style building in the South of Market area. It feels like a cross between a bio-tech start up and a neighborhood restaurant. Its goal, according to founder Josh Tetrick, is nothing short of moving the world's food supply away from animal-based products.

"So, we do that by focusing on one element of the food system, of our broken system, global egg production, because it's particularly unsustainable," he said.

Tetrick's team analyzes plants from around the world, breaking them down into their molecular components and testing their properties. Next comes a spirited process of recipe testing that recently included eggless mayonnaise.

Chef Chris Jones is Culinary Director of Innovations.

"When we were first working with our mayo formula," he remembers, "we were on run No. 9, our ninth iteration. We all tasted it, and it was one of those moments, you're like, 'that's where it's at!'"

Even those successes are refined over and over again. Their properties are logged and compared to other versions. So far the research has resulted in eggless mayonnaise and eggless cookies and muffins that are hard to tell from the originals. And of course, there are the scrambled non-eggs.

The company hopes to begin distributing their products through grocery stores in the U.S. But eventually the plan is to create cheaper and healthier alternatives for distribution throughout the developing world, where they believe the impact would be the greatest.

"So we like to think not only how to satisfy folks in Alabama, but how we can give food to the 1.3 billion people who go to bed hungry every single night," Tetrick said.

They believe the first step is reinventing the egg. According to the United Nations, global demand for eggs was about 14 million tons a decade ago. That's expected to nearly triple by the end of this decade.

Written and produced by Tim Didion


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