Protein snacks packs: A hard-boiled story

Savory characters can have their ‘sweet’ spots and hard-boiled eggs are no exception. The growing popularity of protein snack packs led to a new consumer survey conducted by Datassential, revealing that hard-boiled eggs could play the hero in snack pack concepts that attract consumer interest and spark purchase intent. Researchers tested product concepts to determine the type of hard-boiled egg pairings and packaging that were most appealing. The research also zeroed in on key characteristics of protein snack purchasers and identified purchasing triggers.

Frequency … Nearly 80 percent of protein pack buyers purchase them at least monthly. Furthermore, 41 percent overall purchase these types of protein boxes at least weekly, with that share varying widely by brand.

Dayparts Purchase intent is not tied to a specific daypart. Most consumers in fact, say they purchase a protein pack as a snack (64 percent), while 59 percent said purchase intent is tied to the lunch/dinner segment and 52 percent say they purchase protein packs for breakfast.

Descriptors Half of all consumers believe that the word “pack” best describes a protein snack option, with approximately one-third or 29 percent favoring the word “kit,” while “box” came in third.

Survey respondents said they would be most interested in and likely to buy hard-boiled eggs as snacks if they came in portable packaging, with the addition of flavor and more prominent nutritional benefit communication on package labels. Also, consumers seem to prefer their proteins paired together, citing preferences in combo packs for hard-boiled eggs to be paired with meat, cheese, nuts or fruit.

Savory’s Sweet Spot

The company tested a few hard-boiled egg snack pack concepts, including packaging and label designs, with the consumer groups. Among prototypes tested, the two that scored the highest included a two-egg protein snack pack including seasoning, and a three-compartment “protein power” snack box that featured a hard-boiled egg, cheese and roasted edamame. These two concepts among those tested, exhibited the highest earnings potential, scoring well for factors including high purchase intent, uniqueness, frequency and draw.

This combination of high purchase intent and a high uniqueness is considered the “sweet spot” for new product concept development. If you’re interested in more specifics concerning product concept development and survey results from Datassential, send me an email. Or, to find producers that distribute precooked hard-boiled eggs and other precooked egg products to start creating protein snack pack concepts, try checking our online Egg Product Buyer’s Guide

2016-12-19 08:08:44

Whole eggs tell complete story in baking sector

While formulators find great value in the functional properties supplied by separated egg ingredients, such as egg whites or egg yolks, whole eggs operate with great efficiency in multiple baking applications.

The baking sector encompasses a wide variety of formats, from bread and rolls to pastries and desserts. Euromonitor estimated the total 2015 international baked goods market at $339 billion in sales.

Historically, baked goods rely on a few simple ingredients. Depending on the finished product the list often includes flour, sugar, eggs, butter or shortening, milk or water, leaveners and flavoring. From that list, whole eggs can contribute multiple functional and organoleptic properties to the vast majority of baked goods such as cakes.

Liquid whole eggs are approximately 74 percent moisture and contribute moisture to cake batter. In addition, while flour helps build cake structure, eggs are almost equally as important to a cake’s structure. The proteins within eggs when physically mixed and heated unfold or denature. The proteins then form a cross-linked network to hold in gases, creating a relatively stable foam of tiny air bubbles, which help create the crumb structure in the baked cake. Carotenoids in the yolk contribute to the golden brown crust or exterior and for a yellow cake, the color of the cake interior. In addition, eggs act as an emulsifier in the complex oil-in-water emulsion phase of cake mixing, supporting cake texture and eating quality.

Whole eggs aid with flavor development in cakes, without lending any strong or off-putting flavors themselves. Whole eggs, especially the fat in the yolk, act as an effective flavor carrier to allow fat-soluble flavoring ingredients, such as vanilla extract, more prominence. Whole eggs also help interfere with starch retro gradation to prevent or delay staling. And the natural lipids in egg yolks and whole eggs help create a moist, supple eating quality.

For whole eggs in baked goods, obviously one or more functional benefits carry greater prominence depending on the format of the baked good. For example, in cheesecake, with flour completely or primarily absent, that style of confection relies principally upon eggs for its structure, with the coagulative properties supporting the rich, dense cheese filling.

We have a library of videos that can supply more information about egg functionality within baking and other types of applications. Simply visit Videos. 

2016-12-05 15:27:37

Eggs make the grade under new smart snacks ruling

Like many other parents, I’ve spent hours planning and packing healthy lunches and snacks for my children to take with them to school. Apples, oranges and grapes featured frequently, as did hard-boiled eggs, packed alongside some pepper or mustard for flavoring. Now eggs can make their way to the classroom on their own.  

Final guidelines issued recently by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service under its Smart Snacks Rule qualifies eggs, specifically hard-boiled eggs, as an option for healthy snacks and a la carte offerings in schools. In a change from earlier renditions of the rule, this final rule exempts whole eggs from limits on both total fat and saturated fat.

Drawing on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and existing voluntary standards already implemented by thousands of schools around the country, this rule carefully balances science-based nutrition guidelines with practical and flexible solutions to promote healthier eating in schools.  In fact, the final rule’s preamble specifically cites the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that identifies eggs as “nutrient dense” and includes eggs in its recommended healthy eating patterns. Schools can include hard-cooked or hard-boiled eggs as snacks or menu items, as long as no fat has been added to them.

One large egg contains varying amounts of 13 essential vitamins and minerals plus six grams of protein for just 70 calories, leading to its designation as a nutrient dense food. 

Starting with school year 2014-2015, the Smart Snacks ruling mandated the types of food sold at schools, during the school day, meet certain nutrition standards. This Smart Snacks in School regulation applies to foods sold a la carte, in the school store and in vending machines. The ruling is designed to encourage children to make healthier snack choices that give them the nutrition they need to grow and learn, and conforms to the provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

Protein packs and snacks featuring protein have garnered plenty of interest in the consumer sector, stating new entrants are “flooding” into the high-protein market. The packs illustrate creativity and variety that protein packs can display and hard-boiled eggs also present a canvas ready for creative embellishment. There are literally dozens of options for low-calorie and low-fat condiments that can help flavor hard-boiled eggs and we’ve created a few as thought starters. Overall, including hard-boiled eggs in this new ruling allows schools to use a nutrient dense food with plenty of creative options that can both please and nourish students.

To find a supplier of precooked hard-boiled eggs, visit American Egg Board’s newly revised Egg Product Buyers’ Guide.

2016-11-21 15:11:13

Moving from subtraction to addition—food manufacturers switch gears

The clean label movement often forced manufacturers to play the elimination game—which ingredients can we subtract from formulations to make the label simpler, shorter and more attractive to consumers? However, a new focus on “best foods for…” shifts the discussion from subtraction to addition. Which ingredients or foods are consumers seeking to add to their eating regimen in the hopes of reaping health benefits?

A Food Trends Report issued by Google this year analyzed search data and pinpointed five major trends that impact American eating habits. One of the major trends identified in the report relates to the rise of functional foods. The search analysis found that consumers are looking for foods linked to certain physiological benefits. According to the report, searches for the term “best foods for” has grown ten times since 2005, accompanied by words such as “skin,” “energy,” “your brain,” “gym workout” and the like.

These searches and the correlated interest in functional foods focuses a spotlight on ingredients—which, when added to a label, will create a positive impression and capture consumer attention.

More consumers are clamoring for protein, according to views expressed in the annual International Food Information Council Food and Health Survey. A majority or 64 percent of Americans reported they were trying to consume more protein, up from 54 percent last year. This protein focus underlines the potential of applications that include protein-based ingredients such as eggs.

One large egg contains six grams of easily digestible, high-quality protein for just 70 calories. Multiple studies link protein to satiety that aids in weight loss or recommend protein for recovery after a gym workout. In addition to protein, an egg plays host to a wealth of other vitamins and minerals.

Egg ingredients already find their way into multiple formulations and product categories for their functional properties. Precooked eggs however can play a role as a protein inclusion in snack packs, prepacked salad kits or handheld sandwiches.

The best bet for manufacturers is to not only leverage these consumer studies but also communicate product benefits openly to the buying public. Just be sure when communicating that product information fits all viewing formats—Google also reports that more than 50 percent of searches are conducted on a mobile device

2016-11-07 08:46:53

Plentiful egg supply breaks open market potential

A little more than a year ago I used this space to provide updates about the spread of avian influenza (AI) and its affect on the egg supply. I’m happy to report that today we have an entirely different story to tell, and it is due to the diligence and perseverance of the nation’s egg industry and its farmers.

There is now an ample supply of eggs and egg ingredients in all forms including shell eggs and further processed forms such as liquid, dried or frozen eggs, available to food processing firms, manufacturers and bakeries.

Part of this early resurgence in egg supply is due to egg facilities that remained free of AI during the contamination period. Certain unaffected locations were able to expand and grow their flocks. In fact the number of layers could exceed pre-AI levels by the end of the year and this surge in young, healthy birds also means more eggs.

The egg industry has implemented new practices as the results of the intense study and scrutiny devoted to the causes and prevention of AI, and the biosecurity safeguards and measures recommended by industry experts. The new safeguards are designed to help ensure the protection of a healthy and viable egg industry, to help stabilize the egg supply now and in the future.

Producing safe, quality eggs and egg products is a top priority – and egg farmers ensure safe eggs from the farm through processing and distribution. One way the egg industry demonstrates their commitment to egg safety is by producing a variety of pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized egg products that provide options for food manufacturers and foodservice outlets. The egg pasteurization process largely eliminates the existence of foodborne bacteria and pathogens, including Salmonella

And in terms of protein, eggs offer formulators a unique option as one ingredient to include in popular protein snack packs, or as the protein-based component within salad kits. The International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2016 Food and Health Survey reported 64 percent of consumers said they are trying to consume more protein, up from 54 percent in the 2015 survey.

The protein composition of egg products is responsible for many of the functional properties they supply to manufacturers. For example, both liquid and dried egg whites can aid with binding, whipping, aeration, foaming and structure... Overall egg ingredients supply more than twenty functional properties within formulation, and the abundant supply makes it the right time to take advantage of REAL eggs.

The American Egg Board recently posted a new, searchable online version of the Egg Product Buyers’ Guide. The intuitive system is searchable by company, product type or distribution region, designed to help companies find the best source for the specific type of egg product needed. For more information, view the Buyers’ Guide.

2016-10-24 13:15:41

Cheesecake structure depends on eggs

As my children grew older, in lieu of the princess or movie-themed cakes, sometimes they would request cheesecake for a special celebration. I know I’ve had a fondness for cheesecake since I was young when my grandmother would make cheesecake using a special family recipe.

Whether a recipe is a family heirloom or a commercial standby, a successful cheesecake relies on egg ingredients. In fact, cheesecake flavor intensity and texture develop to their greatest potential when using egg ingredients, according to a new independent study comparing the use of eggs to egg replacers.

Overall no single egg replacement product tested in cheesecake achieved the same analytical and organoleptic sensory test results as did the control product, a cheesecake prepared with egg ingredients. Except for water activity, each aspect of product quality suffered in the comparative products created for the research.

The research confirms the superior functionality and flavor supplied to cheesecake by egg ingredients, compared to the variety of six replacers tested.

While other baked goods primarily rely upon flour for structure, cheesecake relies principally upon eggs for that purpose and much more. The proteins within eggs coagulate to support the rich, dense cheese filling and allow it to reach the right balance of richness/tenderness with firmness. The eggs’ emulsifying properties help create proper mouthfeel. And the use of whole eggs within cheesecake take advantage of the effective flavor carrying properties of the fat within egg yolk, allowing fat-soluble flavoring ingredients like vanilla to be enhanced—particularly important given the often mild and pleasant flavor notes desired in traditional cheesecake. 

Results varied among the different types of replacers however, overall, nearly all areas of cheesecake quality were negatively affected, including batter viscosity, baked cake rise and shape, color/appearance and most importantly, finished product aroma, flavor and texture.

Eggs themselves have more than 100 volatile flavor compounds. They are subtle, enhancing rather than masking other flavors. One principal researcher noted that the subtle flavor egg ingredients bring to baking systems is particularly well suited for cheesecake, which consumers associate with mild, dairy notes. Eggs won’t overwhelm the system but work with the other traditional cheesecake ingredients to create that sweet baked flavor, aroma and lovely golden color.

You can find research results about cheesecake on a new website dedicated to the study results called And, American Egg Board’s online Egg Product Buyers’ Guide can help find a supplier for real egg ingredients.


2016-10-10 08:20:11

The key to a better spongecake

When I would take my kids grocery shopping, I have to admit the baking section was one of their favorites. The aroma of fresh-baked goods drew their attention as sniffing delightedly they would beg me to buy one of their favorite treats.

Aroma is a key component for most baked goods. Sponge cakes are popularly used in snack cakes. And recent research shows that sponge cake aroma, form and flavor depend on the use of egg ingredients.

As part of a series of studies that evaluated the performance of egg replacers compared to egg ingredients, the research team elected to study sponge cake due to its universal availability and simple flavor. Sponge cake, a type of foam cake in its simplest form, relies on flour, sugar, whole eggs and salt for its base ingredients.

Sponge cakes offer a resilient structure suitable for filling, frosting and packaging. Whole eggs, balanced with sugar and flour, contribute much to this structure, for slightly chewy, yet airy, finely grained, evenly textured cake.

Researchers prepared a control product made with eggs and compared it to seven different types of egg replacers commonly recommended by manufacturers for this type of application.

Sponge cake quality most negatively affected by replacing eggs included batter viscosity and the finished cake’s color/appearance and texture. The control cake, made with whole eggs produced a product with golden brown color, a high rise, even top, uniformly open cell structure and sweet, eggy baked good, aroma and flavor. Sensory panelists evaluating organoleptic qualities found the product made with eggs most appealing.

Different egg replacer ingredients display varying water absorption capacities. A lead researcher said that if an ingredient absorbs an excessive amount of water, such as fiber-based ingredients or some blends, including hydrocolloids, additional water may need to be added to the formula to obtain the correct batter viscosity to flow through production equipment.

This can lengthen bake times to get the correct internal temperature and final moisture content, slowing the production process and producing an inferior cake.

The research results provide evidence that shows sponge cake baked using egg ingredients supply a superior product that will withstand the decorating, filling and packaging requirements of the snack cake industry.

You can find research results about the sponge cake on a new website dedicated to the study results called And, American Egg Board’s online Egg Product Buyers’ Guide can help find a supplier for real egg ingredients.

2016-09-26 13:37:13

Muffins made better with…

Is it just me, or are muffins one of the most versatile of all baked goods when it comes to potential for variety? I know we had a cupcake craze going for a while and I do enjoy them but muffins just seem more practical. The perfect single serve baked good for business meetings, a quick breakfast, snacks, you name it.

I think I have company in my opinion as muffins and donuts comprise 48% of packaged sweet snack sales according to data from the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS). While preparation is simple, most muffins are flavored or have inclusions.

Recently an independent research firm conducted a series of studies comparing egg replacers to egg ingredients in a number of baking scenarios, with muffins as one of them. Researchers selected for testing a crème cake blueberry muffin formula; while a relatively new formulation it is popular and easy for bakers to make. A pre-blend allows for test standardization.

Researchers prepared a control product made with eggs and compared it to nine different types of egg replacers commonly recommended by manufacturers for this type of application.

In addition to batter viscosity, flavor and texture were most affected.  Sensory panelists unanimously preferred the control to the other formulas.

It appears from testing that peak top muffin formulations, whether blueberry or another flavor benefit from the traditional use of eggs as a primary ingredient.

And while texture and flavor are vital concerns, processing is equally as important to the baker.

Researchers said egg replacement ingredients as a group produced a more highly viscous batter than that made with eggs. A highly viscous batter can cause uneven distribution of ingredients, especially particulates like blueberries. And proper batter viscosity is important for proper flow through depositing machinery.

The empirical evidence shows muffins baked using egg ingredients produce a quality product when evaluating aroma, texture and taste. In addition, the batter created using eggs allows for uniform commercial production and predictable results.

You can find the research documents about this study at And, American Egg Board’s online Egg Product Buyers’ Guide can help find a supplier for real egg ingredients. 

2016-09-12 17:25:43

Anyone up for a celebration?

We’ve been through all the popular phases in our family with birthday cakes, whether decorated with a Disney princess or golden snitch. Cake decorating is an art form I’ve never mastered. Yet once cut and ready to eat, the cake underneath is equally as or more important than the frosting.  And my family of extended relatives isn’t shy about proffering their opinion of any cake purchased and served for special occasions.

We share with most Americans a propensity for yellow batter cake, one of the most commonly available types found in both retail stores and home kitchens.  The list of ingredients is generally simple. However there are companies making cakes that substitute eggs for other ingredients suggested as egg replacements.

An independent research firm recently conducted a study comparing egg replacers to egg ingredients in a standard yellow batter cake formula. Egg replacers were used at the manufacturer’s suggested rate. The research team conducted extensive analytical and organoleptic tests to evaluate mixing and process differences, batter quality and the finished product.

For yellow batter cake, all areas of cake quality were negatively affected, especially flavor and texture. Not a single replacement product performed as well as or better than real eggs.

Real egg ingredients, particularly whole eggs, contribute a great deal of moisture to the batter. And while flour contributes much of a cake’s structure, eggs are almost equally as important for building structure. The color of a yellow batter cake is provided by natural carotenoids in egg yolks or whole eggs.

Cake batters are a complex oil in water emulsion and the natural lecithin in egg yolks is an extremely effective emulsifier, supporting many positive attributes such as texture and eating quality to yellow cakes. Eggs contribute to flavor, aid with shelf life extensions and help with tenderizing the crumb and the finished cake texture for a moist, supple eating quality in freshly baked cake.

You can find research results about the yellow batter cake on a new website dedicated to the study results called And, American Egg Board’s online Egg Product Buyers’ Guide can help find a supplier for real egg ingredients.

2016-08-29 13:22:54

IFT Q&A with Shelly McKee

American Egg Board (AEB) booth was a main stop for Eggs at Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting & Expo July 17-19 in Chicago. A steady stream of attendees was interested in the independent research confirming the functionality and flavor REAL Egg ingredients supply to baked goods, compared to the overall performance of a variety of egg replacers.

Dr. Shelly McKee, Technical Advisor for American Egg Board, was at AEB’s booth and answered many questions about the research. Below is a compilation of often-asked questions by IFT Expo attendees and Dr. McKee’s responses.

Can you give us an overview of the research project? What’s it all about?
The research project, led by CuliNex, LLC, Seattle, compared the use of real egg ingredients to a representative sample of replacers. Research protocol followed standard industry practices for objectivity and sound scientific method. To date, the team of culinologists/researchers compiled reports for eight application studies analyzing the behavior of egg ingredients compared to egg replacers in yellow-batter cake, sponge cake, cheese cake, sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, sweet dough, muffins and brownies. Throughout the project, no single replacer performed as well or better than egg ingredients within tests completed to date. Overall, quality is negatively affected when eggs are removed or replaced.

What egg replacers were used?
Egg replacers were selected based upon their usage within the industry for common application scenarios. Varieties selected represent the majority of ingredient types or blends most frequently recommended for egg replacement purposes. Study results should give formulators a reasonable portrait of their common behaviors and results within standard application scenarios.

How does using real eggs improve the quality of baked goods compared to egg replacers?
Eggs contribute a host of functional qualities to baked goods that are quite difficult to replicate with egg replacers, such as batter aeration, structure, texture, browning, emulsification, mouthfeel, and most noticeably, characterizing “sweet baked good” flavors and aromas. No two egg replacers perform the same, and as such, all must be tested in application. Without eggs, baked goods made with egg replacers can be overly pale, muted in flavor, weak in structure. Conversely, they can also be overly dark or excessively yellow, have strong off flavors and aromas, and be tough or dense.

How does using egg products help maintain a clean label for baked goods like cakes?
Egg products are listed on the ingredient statement simply as eggs, egg yolks, and/or egg whites. When eggs are removed, in most cases egg replacer(s) need to be used to provide some of the functionality eggs provided. Many egg replacer products are blends of ingredients, making for long, complex ingredient statements. They may also contain allergens, such as soy, wheat, and milk. Furthermore, because the source materials and usage rates vary considerably between egg replacers, there can be noticeable impact to the order of ingredients and nutritionals.

What are the multifunctional qualities that egg ingredients bring to cake products?
Egg ingredients provide beneficial qualities in baked goods, especially cakes. One of the most important qualities egg ingredients contribute is batter emulsification, which comes from the natural lecithin in egg yolk, an extremely effective emulsifier. Lecithin helps to promote the formation of small air bubbles in the batter, which expand in the heat of the oven and increase cake volume. Without proper emulsification, cakes can be greasy, coarse, and dense. Another important function eggs provide is the creation of structure, due to egg proteins which form a cross-linked network that traps gases and helps to form the crumb structure in the baked cake. Additionally, eggs contain more than 100 volatile flavor compounds and contribute a characteristic eggy, “sweet baked good” aroma and flavor that consumers expect from freshly baked cakes, and is noticeably lacking in cakes without real eggs.

Could substitution of some egg in a baking formula affect processes or the end product?
This can depend on the amount of egg used in a particular formulation. If the formulation is altered and it relies more extensively on eggs, the baker will be missing several functions if eggs are reduced or removed. The product structure might miss the air trapping capability of eggs in emulsion, which can also affect product volume. The structure will be weaker, and it will not have the same level of sponginess. Products will have a denser crumb and most will experience a shorter shelf life with more rapid staling.

Is there a single substitute that can replace egg functionality?
In order to achieve full functionality and an appearance, taste and texture similar to the original formulation with eggs, an egg substitute may also require the addition of emulsifiers, oils, gums, polysaccharides, acids, enzymes, colorants or flavoring agents. This can create a lengthy label statement and result in a product that falls short of expectations for taste, texture or appearance.

Egg ingredients supply more than twenty functional properties to foods, including aeration, binding, coagulation, emulsification, foaming and whipping, to name just a few. Egg ingredients can offer formulators better taste and broader range of effective functional attributes from a single ingredient that does not need to be combined with other ingredients for efficacy.

Research summaries are available online at

2016-08-15 14:02:27