Biologists Philippine Soulères and Sheryline Thavisouk have developed a plant-based egg that looks and tastes like a chicken’s egg.
Based in STATION F’s Schoolab program, their startup Les Merveilloeufs (“merveilleux” translates to “marvelous” and “oeufs” to “eggs”) just launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund their development and, more precisely, to kickstart production for their first batch.
Les Merveilloeufs’ recipe is not yet finalized but the team has confirmed it to be 100% made out of legumes. Soon, you’ll be able to scramble, to fry, or to cook vegan eggs sunny side up! We interview co-founder Sheryline Thavisouk to learn more about how a Merveilloeuf compares to a traditional egg and what we can expect to see in the coming months.
The interview has been edited and condensed.
What was the impetus for starting Les Merveilloeufs? What is the mission of the company?
Les Merveilloeufs started as a research project in engineering school back in 2017. Philippine and I were both still students in industrial biology. We noticed that an increasing number of people in France were looking to reduce or even to eliminate products of animal origin from their diet.
When we interviewed vegans around us, we found out that there were certain foods that they missed more than others in their diet transition. Those include: meat, cheese, and eggs. At the time, satisfactory plant-based substitutes – with well imitated appearance, texture, and taste – existed for meat and cheese. However, the egg alternatives available on the French market came in the form of powder, which is inadequate on several points starting with versatility in usage.
Eggs are omnipresent in cooking, especially in French cuisine: they can be found in starters, in main dishes, in desserts, and also in sauces. They’re a very versatile food so it is hard to find a substitute that can be as flexible.
Philippine and I decided to fill that gap by formulating an egg alternative that is healthy, delicious, and multi-purpose. Our product not only looks like a chicken egg but it can also be used like one when cooking, which is something that you can’t fully do with powder alternatives. In other words, you can replace a chicken egg by a Merveilloeuf in your recipes.
During our research, Philippine and I also learned about the number of people who are allergic to eggs, which is especially significant among children. With one in ten children concerned, egg allergy can also be a source of anxiety for parents. This discovery provided an additional motivation for us. Beyond accomplishing the technological challenge of reproducing eggs, the aim of our startup is to propose a plant-based alternative that respects our health as well as our planet’s health and that meets the values of animal ethics.
How do plant-based eggs compare to chicken eggs nutritionally?
The formula is still being developed so the values are likely to change. Here’s what we have calculated in our latest prototype:
In short, Merveilloeufs are less caloric (containing less fat but slightly more carbohydrate) than eggs but they have a similar fiber intake and protein value.
These calculations were made based on the nutritional values of the ingredients (hence based on information provided by the suppliers). We will do a complete nutritional study after the validation of the formula. It is part of the elements that will be funded through our current crowdfunding campaign.
What about in terms of environmental impact?
Our initiative is very much a response to today’s unsustainable egg production system. We’re very conscious about the negative environmental impact caused by the rearing of laying hens, which is even worse if done in battery farming.
At Les Merveilloeufs, we haven’t yet used a tool to calculate our exact environmental impact but it’s something that we value a lot and will do over this summer.
In every step of our product development, from the selection of raw ingredients to the manufacturing and packaging processes, we make it a priority to choose solutions that are as green as possible.
You’re currently crowdfunding to start production. When and where will we be able to try Les Merveilloeufs in stores?
Les Merveillœufs will first be available in vegan restaurants in Paris by the end of 2020.
Our ultimate objective is to make Les Merveilloeufs available for purchase online and in supermarkets for vegans, for flexitarians, for people suffering from egg allergy or intolerance, and for anyone curious to try!
We have also received a lot of international interest so, following development in France, we will also launch Les Merveilloeufs internationally.