Nissui's pollock-based egg substitute gains market share in Japan following avian influenza outbreak

Nissui's new pollock-based egg substitute

An egg substitute made of pollock has seen growing success in Japan as consumers cope with a shortage of chicken eggs.

A global epidemic of Avian influenza has resulted in a a shortage of eggs as flocks are culled to limit the spread of the virus. Additionaly, chicken feed prices have shot up as grain shipments from Russia and Ukraine were interrupted by their war, resulting in higher egg prices.

Shortages have forced food-makers to discontinue some products, and restaurants have removed egg-based dishes from their menus or raised the prices of those items. Convenience store Seven-Eleven Japan announced it was suspending sales of its house-brand boiled eggs from 31 January, and was also reducing the amount of eggs it uses in sandwiches and salads. The family restaurant chain Royal Host raised the price of its breakfast menu by JPY 55 (USD 0.41, EUR 0.38) from 8 March to reflect higher costs. Other chains have announced similar price hikes.

Avian influenza often reintroduced annually to Japan by migratory birds, and the bird flu season in the country generally begins in late fall and lasts through spring. The current pandemic began in late September 2022 and has resulted in a record 16.1 million chickens being culled. In March 2023, there were four separate outbreaks at egg farms in the prefectures of Fukuoka, Niigata, and Iwate.

The shortages of eggs have been a boon for companies offering egg substitutes. Two egg substitutes have been getting major attention amid the higher prices: Nissui’s “Osakana de tsukutta tamagoyaki no kawari” (Made from fish, rolled egg substitute) and Kewpie’s “Hobotama (almost egg) Scramble,” which is not made with seafood. 

Tokyo-based Nissui released its egg substitute last fall. The company had previously developed several surimi products that do not contain egg white as a binder, allowing it to easily shift into the egg-substitute product. The company’s egg substitute comes in a double-pack, with each pack containing two slices – for a total of four slices weighing a total of 50 grams. The substitute is made from minced Alaska pollock, wheat, and soy, and is meant to be added to a child’s “bento” school lunch box – it was originally aimed at children with egg allergies. The egg substitute product sells for around JPY 150 (USD 1.13, EUR 1.04) in supermarkets.

Nissui has also released the results of research on functional ingredients that indicate the high quality of pollock protein. The study was carried out on human subjects, and found that the ratio of efficient use of energy (conversion of protein to muscle), for Alaska pollock protein was the same as or better than for the protein found in eggs.

It remains to be seen whether the popularity of the egg substitutes will last beyond the current pricing crisis, which has ... 

Photo courtesy of Nissui

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