A More Sustainable Egg From Self-Sufficiency Seeking Singapore - Alt-Egg Exploration #5

This non-GMO canola protein-based egg has a shelf life of over a year and offers a versatile alternative for Singapore's fragile supply of eggs.

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Happy Tuesday Market Shakers. Today’s newsletter ventures to Singapore where we meet the startup that’s developing a plant-based egg from non-GMO canola protein. Hegg aims to become a reliable alternative to eggs that will ensure consumers around the world can access a sustainable supply of this staple food.

Singapore Needs (H)egg

Over 90% of all food in Singapore is imported. Eggs included. This means over 70% of the 388 eggs your average Singaporean consumes every year are produced overseas. 

In the era of turbulent supply chains, it’s only a matter of time before cracks begin to show in Singapore’s egg supply. In fact, it’s already starting to happen. Over the past year, egg prices in Singapore have soared. A key contributing factor is rising production costs in Malaysia. Farmers have reduced their output, creating fears of shortages and upping prices.

The Singaporean government is hatching plans to create a more sustainable food supply. Welcoming Japan’s largest egg company, ISE Holdings, to establish a production facility in Singapore earlier this year, was a step towards this goal.

Singapore is also a role model to the world for how to build a sustainable alternative protein supply by supporting FoodTech innovators. Like permitting the sale of cultivated chicken or offering state-sponsored support for food and beverage startups.

Today’s interviewee is one such innovator, striving to create a sustainable alternative to eggs that keeps all the benefits without any of the birds.

Introducing Hegg

Hegg is a Singaporean brand that produces tasty, healthy, and sustainable plant-based egg products. The startup was born when its parent company, Hoow Foods, a Singapore-headquartered food tech company, began to R&D an alternative egg solution to fill a market whitespace.

CEO and Co-Founder, Yau Png Ow explains that Singapore was rocked by pandemic-era supply chain turbulence.

There were egg shortages during the pandemic, in addition to other staple foods. We realized the need for a sustainable, reliable alternative to eggs. So we set out to develop a healthy and versatile product that tasted and worked like regular eggs. Our research team in Hoow Foods worked on this and the result was amazing. So we established the Hegg brand.

Hegg’s flagship product is the Hegg Eggless Egg, which is a powdered type of plant-based egg. It has a shelf life of more than one year, making it a convenient product for consumers and businesses.

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People today lead busy hectic lives. We all know that feeling when we open our fridge and see a half-full out-of-date egg carton. Supermarkets and businesses deal with this same problem too, but on a larger scale. Hegg is our solution for this.

In addition to the supply chain, Hegg was motivated to create a solution that overcame some of the issues of conventional egg production. 

In Singapore alone, the eggshell wastages currently stand at approximately 30,000 kg daily. We wish to contribute to addressing this challenge with products that are more environmentally friendly and animal-friendly. 

A Novel Ingredient

At the centre of Hegg’s Eggless Egg is its primary ingredient, non-GMO canola protein. The powder is nutrient-rich and protein-packed. Crucially, it also has a mild flavour profile according to Hegg Marketing Lead, Margareta Anastasia.

Canola protein powder has a mild flavour. It also enables our Eggless Egg to offer the versatility of a chicken egg without compromising the taste. In addition to canola protein, we add other proprietary ingredients to give our product a balanced flavour.

The Hegg team have successfully developed and co-developed a range of menus using Hegg. From fluffy cakes, cookies and pancakes to conventional savoury dishes like scrambled eggs and omelettes.

The team decided on the powder form for Hegg’s Eggless Egg to make it shelf-stable. Every pouch of Hegg’s Eggless Egg contains the equivalent of either 5 or 50 eggs. With a shelf life of one year, it's a reliable ingredient and ideal for food producers and food service.

Hegg believes that partnerships with like-minded industry players are the ways forward for us to drive a shift of mindset for consumers. We’re heartened to receive interest from bakeries, restaurants, food service, and food manufacturers alike for our Eggless Egg. At the same time, we’re selling the Eggless Egg in 50g packets to end-customers in Singapore. It really made our day to see people’s creations using our Eggless Egg!

Localization is Key

Hegg brands its Eggless Egg as an alternative to eggs rather than an egg replacement. It’s a product that appeals to vegan and flexitarian customers while at the same time, can fill in for eggs.

We’re open to partnering with like-minded brands in Singapore to co-develop products with the Hegg Eggless Egg. In fact, we recently launched a joint SKU with heritage brand Killiney Kopitiam named the “Eggless Kaya”. We’re pleasantly surprised to have been receiving so much love for this SKU - it sold out in just a few days after being launched, and people have been sending us pictures of them queuing up to buy the Eggless Kaya at Killiney’s offline stores! 

Kaya Jam is a Singaporean condiment that normally uses eggs.

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Seeing the success of its Eggless Kaya, Hegg is looking into applying the ‘glocal’ approach for expanding beyond Singapore. 

We’re already exploring opportunities in the United States, South Korea and Japan. These are big egg markets that already have a developing plant-based egg category. In addition to signing distributor agreements, we’re also planning to develop products to suit local tastes. 

We can’t copy and paste what works in Singapore and expect it to wow globally, however. When it comes to Japan, for example, we’re experimenting with Hegg in chawanmushi (a steamed savoury egg custard dish). We did a tasting with Japanese consumers and they adored it!

If we can produce authentic local dishes with our product, we can prove to the market that the Hegg Eggless Egg is a quality egg alternative.

Starting From SKUs That Consumers Are Familiar With 

How have consumers responded to Hegg so far?

As it goes for all food products, we have had a mixture of responses. Most people who’ve tried Hegg loved it, as they appreciate it as a healthier egg alternative. We recognise that education is key for us to help more people who are not familiar with plant-based foods embrace them. One of the initiatives that we have taken is to introduce SKUs that people are more familiar with such as the Eggless Kaya and potentially, Eggless Mayo next.

Despite the differences in how consumers embrace plant-based lifestyles, Hegg is growing in Singapore. The company has found success selling D2C, striking a chord with families with children who have egg allergies. An egg allergy is often lethal, so the whole family has to be careful about what they eat.

Consumers who have family members with an egg allergy love our product because it eliminates the anxiety that comes with dining.

Hegg is also proving popular with bakeries in Singapore who want to develop plant-based menu items. According to Anastasia, Hegg works even for complex baked products like canelés and choux puff.

Opportunities to Grow

Hegg is in the midst of discussing distributorships with several overseas partners. They’re also looking for new food service clients in Singapore.

Zooming out to the broader Asian region, Hegg is eyeing opportunities in Japan too.

Japan is the world’s second-biggest consumer of eggs. It’s a huge market and one we’re hoping to crack.

Competition in Japan in the alt-egg space is limited but stiff. Big players like Kewpie already have established brand power and alt-egg offerings. When it comes to planning its market entry, Hegg is prepared to take it step-by-step according to Yau Png Ow.

Japan is a market that we’re looking to expand into, and we’re looking for like-minded partners on the ground with deep expertise in the local market to scale Hegg meaningfully in Japan and beyond.

Localizing products to Japan certainly helps to earn customer acceptance. Hegg has an advantage here as they can easily adapt their product to new SKUs.

In addition, we’d hope to partner with local food service and co-develop localized menu items.

As we identified from our market research, Japanese consumers are eager to try egg alternatives. They have an appetite for healthy, versatile products. In particular, Hegg’s versatility is likely to appeal to Japanese consumers.

That said, Japanese consumers can be considered as Singapore’s egg connoisseurs. They have high expectations for taste and texture. Hegg’s strategy of dedicating time to hatching quality products that appeal to local tastes will increase their chance of hitting a home run in Japan.

A sticking point in Japan right now, however, is low awareness about alternative eggs. With a growing number of domestic and overseas players in the category showing interest in the Japanese market, there will surely be opportunities to promote category growth together.

That’s all folks

We’d like to thank the CEO and Co-Founder of Hoow Foods, Yau Png Ow, and Hegg’s Marketing Lead, Margareta Anastasia, for supporting this interview.

See you next Tuesday!

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