Last year's influenza outbreak led to new ways of replacing eggs in such items as cheesecake and angel food cake.

The repopulation of egg-laying hens is under way, and prices for eggs and egg ingredients have fallen from last summer’s highs. Yet following the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak of 2015 and a smaller breakout early this year, something lasting will remain: knowledge learned.

“We believe that in 2015 there was a lot of new application work done with old ingredients,” said Jon Stratford, sales and marketing manager for Natural Products, Inc., Grinnell, Iowa. “Suppliers of emulsifiers, starches, gums, proteins and other functional ingredients spent a lot of energy seeing how their ingredients could help in reducing bakers’ reliance upon eggs.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture in September 2015 reported the avian influenza outbreak led to the depopulation, including euthanizing birds, of 7.5 million turkeys and 42.1 million egg-layer and pullet chickens in the United States. The issue sparked research and development teams to seek suitable alternative ingredients and to whip up new cost-saving formulations for cakes, pastries and other food items.

Mr. Stratford said that while soy ingredients have been used as egg replacers for decades, formulators learned more about spray-dried soymilk powder in 2015.

“This ingredient is commonly used to make soy milk and other dairy analogs,” Mr. Stratford said. “However, we now know that soy milk powder can help reduce egg whites by as much as 40% in baked products such as brownies, pancakes and some cakes. There is a real economic benefit to reducing whites even by only 25%.”

Innovation took place in new product categories as well.

“For example, we had not done much work on cheesecakes in previous years, focusing our marketing and tech support mainly on bakeries working with batters and sweet doughs,” Mr. Stratford said. “We were contacted by an industrial cheesecake manufacturer who knew his eggs supply would be tight and his prices would be high. We worked with the customer to develop a nice egg-free cheesecake formula, which is now in production. We gained a new customer and opened a new product category with that project. That is an example of how 2015 pressed us to expand our applications work into new areas, which we will now pursue further in 2016.”

Formulation work at Corbion Caravan centered on angel food cake.

“Building on our proprietary research and development, Corbion was able to expand its Function Plus product line to include Function Plus 250W, an egg white replacer specifically designed to replace up to 30% of egg whites in angel food cakes,” said Kathy Sargent, who works in sweet bakery goods for Corbion Caravan. “Function Plus 250W allows manufacturers to sharply reduce the amount of egg whites used in chemically leavened angel food cake formulas, while maintaining the taste and consistency. Angel food cakes prepared with Function Plus 250W will also maintain their volume, structure, resilience and texture.”

She added egg whites in an angel food cake play a different role than whole eggs in a sponge cake or a pastry.

“It is important to have a full toolbox of ingredients to work with for delivering premium performance in a specific application,” Ms. Sargent said. “Structure building continues to be important for cake applications to replace the volume, resilience and texture from the eggs while moisture retention, flavor and richness are key deliverables for Danish and bread applications.”

Nutrition may factor into egg replacers, especially since the new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasizes nutrient density, she said. Ingredients that replace eggs may provide a source of protein equal to whole eggs or higher, she said.

Manildra Group USA, Shawnee Mission, Kas., offers GemPro products based on wheat protein isolates.

“Wheat proteins can get you the replacement needed in most applications, and in others we can help to find the right blend, with starches and other ingredients, to mimic the broad range of functionalities eggs contribute,” said Brook Carson, vice-president of product development and marketing. “We continue to study different proteins and blends to try to understand what the best solution may be in many different bakery products.

“Wheat proteins can be used to extend eggs in products outside of bakery, too. Wheat proteins can contribute to whipping and aeration, binding in vegetarian patties, and adhesion in batter and breaders.”

MGP Ingredients, Atchison, Kas., offers Arise wheat protein isolates and Optein lightly hydrolyzed wheat protein as partial egg replacers. The protein content of MGPI’s Arise 5000, 5500, 6000 and 8000 wheat protein isolates ranges from a minimum 85% to over 90%. Optein offers a non-bitter flavor profile and high glutamine content. Glutamine has been reported to be effective in the prevention of fatigue and over-training syndrome among active athletes.

Labeling requirements drove a large part of last year’s egg-replacing efforts, said Ricardo Rodriguez, marketing manager, confection and bakery, for Ingredion, Inc. and based in Bridgewater, N.J.

“Is an ingredient considered modified or clean label?” he said. “Does it contain an allergen? Is it non-G.M.O.? Once these decisions are made, different ingredients can be considered that most likely weren’t considered when the finished product was first formulated.”

Ingredion has developed such egg-replacer systems as Precisa Bake 100, Pentech and Gumplete. They cover a range of applications andhave been shown to reduce egg use from 25% to 100%, Mr. Rodriguez said.

“We are also going beyond these systems to the next generation of ingredients like our pulse-based ingredients under the brand names Vitessence pulse proteins and Homecraft pulse flours that when used in combination with some of our system solutions can achieve even higher levels of replacement,” he added.

Rembrandt Foods, Spirit Lake, Iowa, supplies egg ingredients as well as egg extenders.

“Our egg extensions were intended to help extend the limited egg supply,” said Jonathan Spurway, vice-president of marketing and optimization for Rembrandt Foods. “We blended functional ingredients with real eggs to create a solution that was a 1:1 substitution from standard egg uses.

“With our egg extenders, you are able to gain the same functionality as using 100% real eggs, while being able to extend the use of the product. The taste, aroma and coloring of our egg extenders are typical of standard dried egg products while maintaining functionality and product appearance.”

The functionality and nutritional benefits of eggs and egg ingredients make them difficult to replace.

“These roles can be attributed to the unique proteins present in egg whites and the lipoproteins found in yolks,” Mr. Spurway said.