“It mimics an egg in taste, aroma and nutritional content. We were able to create a product made from 100% plant extracts that makes delicious scrambled eggs, makes good omelettes and is used in bakeries and pastries, “Daniel Abegão, administrator and technical director of the Center for Food Education and Research (CFER), told Lusa. is located in Alcobaça, in the Leiria region.
It is made from soybeans – a plant that has “physical and chemical properties that allow them to replace and mimic an egg, including the way it is cooked” – it contains other plant extracts to give a product that “looks like an egg, smells like an egg, tastes like an egg, but it is not an egg, ”Daniel Abegão explained.
“It allows the end consumer, whether a vegetarian or just a fan of a healthier and more sustainable diet, to offer a product like egg that certainly won’t miss the original egg,” the researcher said.
On a steep street in the city center, facing the towers of Alcobaça Monastery, are CFER’s current facilities, especially offices and research facilities, the latter of which is a mix of scientific laboratory and kitchen at home, with no shortage of fridge, washing machine and of course stoves.
During a visit to the Lusa news agency, microbiologist João Peça took on the role of “chef” in the production of scrambled eggs from a liquid vegetable egg whose structure and taste, as can be proven, were similar to the originals.
The vegetable egg is not yet on the market, but Daniel Abegão says it is “still in the first half of this year,” “after more than five years of research and development.”
“We are currently finalizing the industrial implementation of the project [em fábricas parceiras com as quais o CFER trabalha]to study the latest technical details so that we can bring it to the domestic and international markets very soon, ”reveals a technical director trained in biochemistry and industrial chemistry at the University of Coimbra.
Vegetable Egg already has interested customers in Europe, Africa and the United States and Brazil.
“We believe it will certainly be very successful because its development and stable and tasty end product will require its work,” he pointed out.
“And we hope people understand that buying this egg adds value, whether they are vegetarians or non-vegetarians. It is about a healthier diet and a more sustainable lifestyle, ”added Daniel Abegão.
The 100% vegetable egg is part of the CFER project for food biotechnology called Plantalicious, where the company conducts its own research and markets the product under its own brands.
“The idea came from the food industry’s discovery that there is a big trend worldwide that is replacing animal proteins with plant-based ones. We want to create something to replace the egg, which is a product that is often not at the center of food substitution research, ”he said.
The Development Panel for New Products for Vegetable Eggs features fried or fried eggs – currently a liquid egg does not allow this because it is no different from yolk protein – or scrambled eggs and omelettes that are ready to eat. ”Revealed Daniel Abegão.
A new product is also being developed: edible straw, also made from plant extracts that incorporate the marine environment, through algae.
“Simple disposable plastics that are later thrown in the trash have been banned in recent years. We recognized both the business opportunity in this area and the opportunity to innovate,” stressed Daniel Abegão, referring to straw that looks plastic but is not plastic and is edible, recyclable and economically profitable”.
Alcobaça, which employs eight people, has a service component in addition to its own development – the main market is the United Kingdom, and in addition to Portugal, it has partnerships and agreements with European customers in Spain. France, Germany, Ireland and Sweden, Africans from Angola, Cape Verde and Senegal, or with North American and Brazilian companies – where the concept is also developed “to the final product and delivered” on a turnkey basis in the customer’s warehouse, ”maintains Daniel Abegão.
“The product is designed the way the customer wants it and we are able to deliver it through our scientific research,” he added.
Together, CFER’s core business is healthy eating: “healthy drinks, healthy sauces, healthier ready meals, yoghurts, dairy products, cheeses and also supplements [alimentares]our company is always evolving and doing so from the point of view of healthy eating, so that the consumer has access to an increasingly value-added product, ”explained Daniel Abegão.
He pointed out that the products are low in fat and are foods that are delivered “through a more cohesive, clearer and fairer value chain and contain fewer ingredients that are known to be harmful to human consumption”.
The Technical Director of CFER has no doubt that the contribution of science and the combination of knowledge in areas such as nutrition, food biochemistry, technology or industrial chemistry will make it possible to create a “good, competitive, technically sound”. , which is also tasty and healthy for the consumer ”.