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New climate-friendly food ingredients are going to be plant-based

A new research project aims to reduce the carbon footprint of food ingredients by at least 33% by replacing eggs with plant-based ingredients that provide good texture and flavor appealing to consumers and their wallets. The project is a collaboration between two departments at Aarhus University and the ingredient companies Palsgaard A/S and Nexus A/S. Innovation Fund Denmark has invested 23 million DKK in the project.

Photo: Marianne Hammershøj

The global annual consumption of eggs is equivalent to three times the CO2 emissions from all container ship traffic. Of this, 12% of all eggs are used as ingredients providing functionality in for example baked goods, dressings, and ready meals.

Hence, there is a great potential to reduce the carbon footprint by switching from animal to plant-based ingredients. The project's vision is to replace 10% of the eggs used globally as ingredients, equivalent to 100,000 tons, with plant-based ingredients, thereby reducing CO2 emissions by 33%. The interest from e.g. bakery companies in being able to produce foods with more climate-friendly ingredients is high.

However, there are several challenges in replacing eggs as an ingredient with plant-based alternatives. Eggs are a functional ingredient, as they can provide texture and volume by foaming, gelling, and emulsifying. The latter is important for achieving a stable oil-water system so that mayonnaise and dressings do not get unstable and separate. The aimed for plant-based solutions must perform at least as well as eggs.

"In the project, we will fundamentally look for the same properties from plant materials such as proteins and fibers that meet the same qualities in terms of functionality as eggs. At the Department of Food Science, we have valuable expertise in food structures and the physicochemical conditions affecting them," says project leader Marianne Hammershøj, professor at Aarhus University.

It is not an easy task, as the expectation is that different raw materials will be needed for different solutions, and a 100% replacement may not be the most optimal. It is crucial that the ingredient solutions taste well, appeal to consumers, and are a financially viable alternative.

The project also involves consumer studies to gain knowledge on how foods produced with plant-based ingredients are best communicated to consumers.

Jessica Aschemann-Witzel, MAPP Centre Leader and professor at the Department of Management, Aarhus University, says:

"We will analyse social media trends and the way plant-based alternatives are discussed by influencers and test different communication ideas – using the Virtual Reality supermarket, which means that the experiment is perceived as realistic."

The investment from Innovation Fund Denmark means that fundamental knowledge is created about the properties that plant-based ingredients must possess on a molecular level, which will ensure targeted solutions.

Without this investment, ingredient companies would have to conduct many time-consuming experiments, which would have less chance of succeeding in time.

"It is obvious that the commercial potential is enormous. I believe we have gathered the right partners at precisely the right time. We also look forward to collaborating with other food companies that want to develop new and more sustainable foods by fully or partially replacing eggs with innovative plant-based solutions," says Claus Hviid Christensen, CEO of Nexus A/S.

The researchers at Aarhus University, in close collaboration with the ingredient companies, aim to ensure that the project succeeds by quickly advancing solutions to existing customers and out to consumers.


Additional information

We strive to ensure that all our articles live up to the Danish universities' principles for good research communication (scroll down to find the English version on the website). Because of this the article will be supplemented with the following information:

Project title

PIER – Plant-based food ingredients to be egg replacers


Innovation Fund: 23 million DKK

Total budget: 37 million DKK

Conflict of interest:


External commenting:

Claus Hviid Christensen, Nexus & Palsgaard,

Jessica Ascheman-Witzel, AU-MAPP,

Ulla Kidmose and Sandra Beyer Gregersen, AU-FOOD

Project partners:

Aarhus University, Department of Food Science

Nexus A/S

Aarhus University, MAPP Centre, Department of Management

Palsgaard A/S


Marianne Hammershøj, Professor, Department of Food Science, Aarhus University

Phone +45 2216 9259 


About the Partners

Aarhus University, Department of Food Science
The Department of Food Science conducts research throughout the food value chain within plant production systems, biofunctional foods, food chemistry and technology, and sensory and consumer science. The department is housed in a newly built state-of-the-art building with advanced analytical equipment, infrastructure, and high-tech facilities. The department has approximately 60 full-time researchers and 80 PhD students and postdocs employed who collaborate in an international research environment.

Nexus A/S
Nexus A/S is Palsgaard's independent innovation company, established to ensure that Palsgaard maintains a long-term focus as a foundation-owned company committed to research and development. Nexus has approximately 40 employees who have developed products for Palsgaard for more than 60 years. Within the past 5 years, more than 60 of Palsgaard's products have been made based on Nexus' innovative solutions.

Aarhus University, MAPP Centre, Department of Management
For more than 30 years, the MAPP Centre has conducted high-ranking research in effect-oriented social science through interdisciplinary projects. The research covers consumer, customer, and citizen attitudes and behavior as well as commercial market analysis and management within food systems. There has been a focus on health and sustainability aspects in the research. The MAPP Centre has extensive expertise in plant-based market trends and knowledge of social media and influencers.

Palsgaard A/S
Palsgaard is owned by the Schou Foundation (a Danish business foundation) and is headquartered in Juelsminde, Denmark. The first industrial emulsifier was invented at Palsgaard more than 100 years ago, and today, Palsgaard is among the world's top producers of emulsifiers and stabilizers for food. Palsgaard has approximately 750 employees.