May 18

JUST, Michael Foods Partner To Put Plant-Based Eggs On More Foodservice Menus

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Plant-based egg maker Eat JUST is planning for the future amid the pandemic that has stalled business in many foodservice channels.

JUST has sealed a deal with national foodservice distributor Michael Foods, which will be the exclusive manufacturer and distributor of the final plant-based egg products to restaurants and other foodservice channels.

The deal offers the potential for JUST Egg to leap forward in foodservice, JUST CEO Josh Tetrick said.

“It’s such a momentous thing for the company,” he said. “It’s not about winning a new account or being in another retailer. We want to have an impact for the next 50 years, to make food products like this ubiquitous.”

JUST will continue to make the mung bean protein at the factory in Appleton, Minn., that it acquired from Del Dee Foods last year. Michael Foods, a subsidiary of Post Holdings
POST
, will pick up the manufacturing from there, turning the protein into liquid egg and the other plant-based egg products its foodservice customers want.

Michael Foods, a national foodservice distributor of eggs, potatoes, cheese and other ingredients, will also handle distribution of the JUST Egg products.

Tetrick expects the partnership will put the company’s plant-based eggs on more big chain restaurant menus, at a time when consumer demand for plant-based alternatives to chicken eggs is on the rise.

“When it comes to new [foodservice] sales, the Michael Foods team has been doing this for decades and much of the heavy lifting will shift to them,” Tetrick said.

Retail sales of plant-based eggs grew 192% in 2019 from the previous year, according to SPINS data, and JUST Egg now has a presence at mainstream grocery chains around the country.

That data doesn’t include foodservice sales, where demand is also rising.

In February, corporate and campus catering company Sodexo and JUST announced a partnership that will make the plant-based egg an option at its facilities around the country.

Many independent eateries have put the product on their breakfast menus, and regional chain’s like Silver Diner and Gregory’s Coffee offer JUST Egg breakfast sandwiches, but the product has yet to launch nationally at major restaurant chains.  

Now, the new partnership is expected to offer JUST Egg a bigger presence in foodservice channels including stadiums, healthcare facilities and campus dining halls as well as the large quickserve chains that are already buying other egg products from Michael Foods, Tetrick says.

Pricing is a key issue as JUST Egg expands into foodservice channels, and the partnership with Michael Foods is expected to help drive down product costs.

On JUST’s end, the process of sourcing the mung beans and making the protein has become more cost effective, going from 20 cents per egg equivalent to 18 cents thus far this with the goal of cutting 5 cents more from the cost by year’s end, Tetrick said. Globally, the average cost of a hen’s egg is about 8.2 cents, he said.

“The other factor is how much it costs to mix, bottle, warehouse and ship,” he said. “By virture of working with such a high-volume, experienced manufacturer, we expect that to bring the finished costs down.”

JUST will be the first plant-based egg product the distributor will have to offer customers, Michael Foods’ Marketing Vice President Josh Nissen said.

“As such, it will allow us to offer a complete egg solution for our customers regardless of egg preference or dietary restrictions,” Nissen said.

Several of Michael Foods’ 14 US egg processing facilities have the capability to process JUST Egg products.

“Our initial work, however, will be developing the right portfolio of JUST products specifically to meet the demands of our foodservice customers,” Nissen said.

Doing the deal in the midst of a pandemic makes sense because JUST is focused on the big picture, Tetrick said.

“Foodservice is going to open up again, whether it’s in 30 days or 90 days or the end of the year,” he said. “The infrastructure we build is focused on what the next 50 years will look like.”

Both companies see the potential for future growth.

“Dining out is a social experience that many consumers are looking forward to getting back to,” Nissen said. “Selling JUST Egg ensures that our customers have the egg solution for all consumers as they re-enter their doors.”



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