Fibers, gums, and sometimes even proteins can all act as hydrocolloids to bind normally immiscible components in a formulation. They allow for the precise control of viscosity, flow (rheology), gelation, stabilization, emulsification, and texture. But spurred on by the plant-based movement that saw an explosion in the development of plant-based analogs of meat, poultry, dairy, and other animal protein items, food scientists have elevated the refinement and manipulation of these ingredients to a high art.

Nowhere is that artistry more evident than in the very recent development of replacers for eggs. Food scientists—at least a small handful of them—now have the both the skills and the ingredient toolbox to manipulate and combine fibers, gums, and proteins into plant-based analogs of hen eggs that look, feel, cook up, and taste like Henny Penny just laid them.

Covering a spectrum of ingredients and uses, hydrocolloids are one of the most commonly used formulation additives. In addition to aiding viscosity, gelling, emulsifying, stabilizing, and controlling texture, hydrocolloids also are used for clarifying and clouding, as a fat substitute, in flocculation, and for aiding in the whipping of dairy and dairy analog formulations.

RELATED: Yo! Egg's Plant-Based Sunny-Side Up Egg wins Most Innovative Product at this year's Spirit of Innovation Awards. Read it now.

This versatility is also reflected in the market size, currently estimated at more than $11 billion globally, according to research group Markets and Markets. The group predicts a CAGR trajectory for hydrocolloids of more than 5% over at least the next five years to around $14.5 billion.

Unlike the more familiar analogs of animal products such as burgers, chicken nuggets, cheese, and even plant-based milks, creating a replica of an egg was practically sui generis. Meat and poultry alternatives from soy were known to be in use in Asia at last 2,200 years ago. And milk replacers from soy, nuts, and seeds have a history nearly as long. And while scrambled egg replacers from soft tofu have been around for several decades, only in the past several years have credible and edible copycats of cooked hen eggs begun to enter the market.

Israeli company Yo! Foods, Ltd. is one of the very small handful of pioneers to crack cooked egg mimicry with its line of Yo! Egg products, specifically sunny side up, poached, and hard-boiled eggs, all made from plant-derived hydrocolloids and other ingredients. To find out how this feat of eggy impersonation was accomplished, Prepared Foods network interviewed Yosefa BenCohen, research chef and head of R&D, and Eran Groner, founder and CEO of Yo! Foods. Watch the video interview above, or listen to the podcast version below.

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