The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about substitute products for eggs in Japan amid the latter's surging prices.
Question: Is there a way to make an omelet without using actual eggs?
Answer: You can use "egg alternatives." Major food manufacturer Kewpie Corp. is selling a product using ingredients such as soy milk, while Kagome Co. and other firms have launched items using carrots and white kidney beans. These products are unique as they try to mimic the taste and texture of eggs using plant-based materials. The price of eggs has recently skyrocketed in Japan, and they are attracting renewed attention.
Q: How expensive have eggs become?
A: According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the national average retail price of eggs in May was 303 yen (about $2) per 10-pack of mixed sizes. This is due to the high cost of feed for chickens in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The avian flu outbreak has also had an impact. Japan has culled some 16.54 million chickens, or 10% of the nation's egg-laying hens, after 84 cases in 26 prefectures were reported since the fall of 2022.
According to Teikoku Databank Ltd., 29 of 100 restaurant giants have suspended serving egg-based menu items since the beginning of 2023 due to rising egg prices and other factors.
Q: Will alternative products replace the use of actual eggs?
A: It seems difficult. Kewpie does not believe that rising egg prices will lead to the purchase of substitute items. This is because a bag of the company's product, which is equivalent to one egg, costs around 200 yen (roughly $1), and is more expensive than the price of actual eggs. Even so, the company is expanding its production in order to "increase food choices."
Q: What is the company specifically doing?
A: Kewpie handles 250,000 metric tons of eggs per year, or about 10% of the total egg production in Japan, but plans to increase the sales of egg alternatives and other products that do not use animal-based ingredients to 10 billion yen (approx. $71 million) in 2030.
The strategy is to create friendly products for customers who are allergic to eggs or those who want items that do not include animal-based ingredients. Market competition has already begun with an awareness of global trends such as the spread of "ethical consumption," in which products are selected based on their impact on the environment and society.
(Japanese original by Takashi Yamashita, Business News Department)