Donna Berry 2019CHICAGO — Starbucks cafes have been selling eggs bites since early 2017. These fully cooked portable breakfast items warmed by the barista quickly became a hit because of their protein content and premium quality. Consumers who have come to appreciate these flavorful, nutritious mini meals may now choose from a number of retail brands and prepare them at home.

“The egg bite trend we’re seeing now come to light in the consumer packaged goods space was inspired by the popularity of Starbucks’ sous vide egg bites,” said Nate Hedtke, vice president of market development, American Egg Board, Chicago. “The Starbucks egg bites were quickly embraced by consumers because not only did they taste great, but they fit into many of the dietary eating patterns people were following, from keto to paleo to gluten-free to Mediterranean.”

A new player is Organic Valley, La Farge, Wis., with the only nationally distributed organic egg bites product in the United States. The refrigerated heat-and-eat product is made with organic free-range eggs from the cooperative’s small family farms, along with Organic Valley cheese and Organic Prairie meat.

The two-bite, 4-oz package contains 14 to 16 grams of protein and less than 250 calories. They can be popped in the toaster oven or microwave and ready to eat in less than 90 seconds. Varieties are feta and chive, sausage and pepper jack, and uncured ham and Swiss. They will start shipping July 27 and have a suggested retail price of $3.99 per pack.

“The egg bite format is extremely versatile,” Mr. Hedtke said. “It can be adapted to any number of ingredients.

Photo: Organic Valley

“Interestingly, this feature has people making egg bites at home. With so many people at home right now, egg bites are easy to make and customize to your own family’s tastes. You make a batch of egg bites once a week and you have breakfast or snacks all week long.” 

Home cooks typically bake them, which is Organic Valley’s approach. Starbucks, on the other hand, uses a sous-vide process. Sous-vide, which means “under vacuum” in French, is a culinary technique where vacuum-sealed food is immersed in water and cooked at a very precise and consistent temperature. This cooking method locks in flavors and doesn’t require extra fats and oils.

“The sous-vide technique is ideal for cooking as it uses water, which is the best transmitter of heat, while also maintaining the integrity of the product being cooked,” said Bruno Bertin, chef at Cuisine Solutions, Sterling, Va., the company Starbucks partnered with on development and production.

Eveline Chao-Rivera, Starbucks brand manager, said, “Sous-vide cooking offers an unbelievable texture to food unlike anything else. It makes eggs velvety and creamy, almost like you’re eating something indulgent, but you’re not.”

Starbucks’ initial launch was with two varieties: applewood smoked bacon, gruyere, Monterey Jack; and egg white, roasted red pepper, spinach, Monterey Jack. Ham, cheddar and pepper soon followed.

Photo: Organic Valley

Nestle USA, Arlington, Va., now offers frozen sous-vide egg bites under the new Life Cuisine brand, which offers heat-and-eat meal solutions that complement the many varied eating-well approaches today. The initial launch includes two varieties: tomato and spinach egg white, and uncured turkey bacon and aged white cheddar.

“We heard from consumers that they want meals that fit their personal definitions of wellness without compromising on taste or satisfaction,” said Rhonda Richardson, registered dietitian and nutrition communication manager at Nestle. “They asked for delicious recipes with more protein, vegetables and ingredients that allow them to eat well, their way.”

This past September, Valley Fine Foods, Benicia, Calif., took its Three Bridges baked egg bites national, after a successful launch in Costco stores. The four flavors are bell pepper and cheese, country-style sausage, mushroom and asiago, and uncured bacon and cheese.

“Consumers are demanding healthier snack choices to replace meals as they graze throughout the day,” Mr. Hedtke said. “Plant-forward formulating meshes with ongoing demand for protein content, resulting in ingredient combinations that complement each other to optimize the vitamin and mineral content of the finished product. Nutrient-dense ingredients, such as real eggs, supply a highly desired protein source, as well as practical functional benefits to snack products.”