South Korea’s Unlimeat Partners with Just Egg to Unveil Vegan Kimbap and Breakfast Sandwich
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South Korean plant-based meat producer Unlimeat has partnered with US vegan egg brand Just Egg to unveil products using the latter’s folded egg format. The collaboration will result in a vegan kimbap, which will go on floors in Gangnam in September, followed by an American-style breakfast sandwich.
A week after announcing the launch of its plant-based tuna range, Unlimeat has announced a brand license agreement with the world’s largest vegan egg brand. Kimbap – a Korean dish made by rolling ingredients in seaweed – will be made plant-based using Just Egg’s folded format and Unlimeat’s sausage patty.
Following the 100% Plant Protein Bomb Kimbap’s Gangnam launch in September, when it will be available for sale and delivery, the brands will also introduce a plant-based breakfast sandwich, which will feature a Koran-style Tteokgalbi (grilled short rib) patty by Unlimeat, vegan cheese and folded Just Egg. The patty will have a soybean protein base and gets an umami flavour profile through alliums like onions, garlic and spring onions.
Plant-based boom in South Korea
Veganism is growing in South Korea. The Korean Vegetarian Union said that in 2020, there were around half a million strict vegans in the country – a threefold increase from a decade ago. Similarly, 1.5 million people followed vegetarian or plant-forward diets, while nearly 20% of the population (around 10 million) estimated to be flexitarian.
Unlimeat was launched in 2019, using proprietary protein extrusion developments to make slices of plant-based BBQ beef from upcycled waste ingredients. In 2021, its parent company Zikooin announced plans to build one of Asia’s largest plant-based meat factories, and last year, it entered the US market through online channels. And now, its product portfolio includes vegan pulled pork, jerky, beef mandu (a Korean dumpling), mince, pepperoni, sausage and tuna.
Just Egg entered the Korean market in 2021, followed by an egg shortage owing to a bird flu outbreak. The Avian flu hit over 100 farms in the country and led to the culling of more than 16 million chickens, sending egg prices skyrocketing by up to about 70%.
The Californian food producer capitalised on this opportunity by launching its mung-bean egg first to foodservice, through a distribution partnership with the bakery café chains Paris Baguette and Paris Croissant.
Egg consumption and a viable alternative
South Korea is also among the countries with the highest egg consumption in the world. As of 2020, one estimate found that on average, an individual consumes 250 eggs annually in the country. And according to Future Market Insights, the egg alternatives market is projected to reach over $1.5B by the end of 2026, growing 5.8% from 2016.
Vegan egg substitutes can also be much better for the environment. Just Egg claims its liquid egg alternative uses 98% less water, 83% less land and has 93% fewer carbon emissions than conventional eggs.
“We are excited to collaborate with Just Egg, a food tech company with a mission to create a healthy, safe, and sustainable food system,” said an Unlimeat representative. “As this collaboration unites brands with the same beliefs, we hope to develop a variety of products using Just Egg’s offerings and Unlimeat’s plant-based substitutes. This will serve as an opportunity to expand the range of choices for consumers who enjoy vegan options.”
Industry think tank the Good Food Institute has called South Korea a “global hotbed of alternative protein innovation”, with companies like CellMeat, Lotteria, Armored Fresh and Yangyoo some of the leaders in alt-protein. The country’s cellular agriculture industry is also developing fast, with the Cellular Agriculture Support Center opening earlier this year and 28 of its cultivated meat stakeholders signing an MoU to advance the industry.