Vinita Choolani is on a mission to remake chicken eggs. After she experienced first-hand the detrimental effects Covid-19 had on Singapore’s food supply chain — and seeing supermarket shelves emptied of milk and eggs — Choolani realised the value of investing in local production to maintain food security. She founded Float Foods in June 2020 and developed OnlyEg, a legume-based egg substitute that replicates a whole egg, that can be eaten “raw”, placed on a pizza, spooned atop avocado toast or even dropped into a bowl of soup.
Why create a plant-based substitute for eggs?
I wanted Float Foods to be based on 100-percent plant-based foods, because we believe it is the strongest impetus for our “Food as Medicine” mission: not only would the food be sourced from plants but it would provide a nutrient-dense substitute to animal products.
Our approach is to enable vegans and also the average consumer who might be looking to reduce his meat consumption to be able to eat healthy, nutrient-dense plant-based foods that offer just as much, if not higher nutritional content than the original product. Plus, we want our supply chains to be within our borders by investing in local production so that we can make a substantive impact on our food supply and security.
How varied are the existing options for egg substitutes?
Currently, the closest alternatives in the market globally are liquid blends of egg substitutes that are limited to scrambled eggs and omelettes, but there’s no real-to-form alternative that offers both egg yolk and egg white as two distinct components in a complete product. What we offer as a point of differentiation is the make-up and the level of functionality that closely matches a real egg, allowing for versatility in preparations, such as sunny-side-up or soft-boiled eggs. Our products can also be sold as individual components, which opens up opportunities for preparations, like egg white omelettes and “raw” yolks.
More importantly, we are working with research and development partners to increase the nutritional content of the egg, so it can contribute more protein per egg than a chicken egg; the shelf life will also be improved. This is just the beginning of what we believe our mission can achieve. In the future, we can even look at creating variations of OnlyEg that cater to consumers with specific medical conditions, by incorporating a specific subset of nutrients in different variations.
How does developing OnlyEg fit in with your goals and wider trends in plant-based or vegan foods?
In my opinion, the plant-based future is here. We have already seen a huge shift in consciousness towards a plant-based lifestyle. There is a wide and sweeping transformation in all manner of plant-based foods, from cultivated meats to lab-grown milk. Globally, the plant-based food market is expected to reach US$74 billion ($98.3 billion) by 2027. The plant-based egg substitute market itself is expected to reach US$1.5 billion by 2026. Demand for dairy has dropped, with dairy-free milk options like oat and almond taking its place.
I believe this is no longer a trend, and this conscious consumption is here to stay. We can no longer ignore the fact that our current food production habits are destroying the planet. All this points to a renaissance in the way we eat. “Vegan” is no longer associated with a small minority of outliers, and “plant-based” is the new norm.
What’s one thing you’re excited about in 2021?
We have completed proof-of-concepts for OnlyEg and other alternative proteins products, including plant-based yoghurt, cheese and blended-egg patties. We see a huge potential to offer nutrient-dense substitutes in this space. We are currently raising capital through a seed round as we work towards OnlyEg’s commercial readiness by 2022.
I am excited to be able to work on commercialising our plant-based egg and make it available everywhere, be it hawker centres, restaurants or at home. We are working on the nutrition profile and this will be truly game-changing — we will be the first to offer plant-based whole egg substitutes that are healthy and protein-rich.
A version of this story first appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of A Magazine.