Innovation starts with plant-based breakfast

FEATURED SPEAKER Future of Nutrition Summit and Fi Conference 2019
Plant-based and clean meat are solutions to answer consumers’ demands for more environmentally friendly food products. By developing JUST Egg, the first scrambled egg made from mung bean, the American startup JUST showed that market demand and sustainability could be combined. In this interview, Udi Lazimy, Global Director of Sourcing and Sustainability, tells us that more is to be expected from JUST and their unique Discovery Platform plant library.

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In a few words, can you explain how JUST started?
“JUST was founded on the idea that we need to make it easier for everybody to eat well. ‘Well’ means healthier, more sustainably and more affordably. We believe that plants hold the keys to unlocking a far more sustainable food system, and we've proven this belief with a number of highly innovative and successful products enjoyed in markets around the world.”

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What is JUST Egg and when will we be able to taste it in Europe?
“By studying functional applications for plant proteins from around the world, we discovered, that the mung bean - a legume that has been cultivated in Asia for over 4,000 years - has a protein profile that allows it to be scrambled like an egg. From this discovery, we developed JUST Egg. JUST Egg is a plant-based product that looks, tastes and functions exactly like a scrambled egg."

“This was recognised in a number of publications such as Popular Science Magazine (‘One of the 100 most innovative products of 2018’), Time Magazine (‘One of the 10 smartest sustainable products of 2018’). We also received the Fast Company award for ’The 2018 world changing ideas’.”

“JUST Egg is off-the-charts in terms of sustainability as it requires 98% less water and 94% less green-house gases emission that a conventional chicken egg. JUST Egg will likely be available in Europe early 2020.”

What is your main responsibility at Just?
“I am the Global Director of Sourcing and Sustainability in one of the world's fastest growing food-tech companies. I lead the company’s efforts to improve our overall impact on the planet, for society and human health. I also oversee JUST’s entire ingredient sourcing program, including the commercial supply of thousands of metric tons of responsibly sourced agricultural commodities.”

What is your plant library and how does it work? How can other companies access the data?
“The JUST Plant Library is a collection of thousands of protein-rich plant tissues which I have collected from over 70 countries. It is kept in our facility in San Francisco. This library fuels our Discovery Platform, through which we screen through plants to discover functional applications of these plants in food in order to replace less sustainable ingredients. This high-throughput, automated platform is patented in the U.S., and is celebrated widely as one of the most impressive systems created to drive sustainable food innovation in the world.”

“Currently, other companies cannot access the data we generate through our Discovery Platform, but perhaps in the future they will be able to. “

Can you give some examples of the new ingredients and the applications you have discovered through your Discovery platform?
“The discovery we're most excited about is the mung bean and its application in JUST Egg. But JUST Egg is only the beginning; we have several new products that we are developing with this and other discoveries which we believe will continue to revolutionize the food system.”

What are you currently working on at JUST? What innovations can we expect soon?
“We are one of the leading companies working on developing cultured-meat products, which is real meat that doesn't require an animal to die or even be harmed in order to produce it. We plan to be one of, if not the first, companies to bring a cultured meat product to market.”

“We are also constantly working on new versions of JUST Egg, so stay tuned.”

What are your predictions for the F&B industry over the next 3-5 years?
“I think the focus will be on sustainability, especially in the protein space. Plant-based and sustainable animal proteins will, I believe, become more and more popular as the world's population grows and people increasingly realize the tremendous impact that conventional meat production has on the planet. I think you'll see many companies, such as ours, with delicious cultured meat products as well as plant-based products that are indistinguishable from animal-based alternatives (like our JUST Egg).”

Don’t miss Udi Lazimy’s presentations during the Future of Nutrition Summit on 2 December and at the Fi Conference on 3 December.