The process was initially invented to infuse the egg with a smoky flavour profile, but it was later discovered that it carried two more important effects: bacterial elimination, and halting of the ageing process.
“[We use] a very precise, five-part equation to smoke the eggs,” The Smoked Egg Company Director Julie Kor told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“The eggs are put into our special smoker, and [we then] control five parts of the smoking equation: Time, Temperature, Humidity, Volume of smoke vs Volume of product. All of these must be aligned to successfully smoke an egg [the way we do].”
“We did not realise that all bacterial growth in the egg was being killed. At 18 weeks of age, a normal egg usually has 250 million bacteria, but our smoked egg had none whatsoever,” said Kos.
“We believe that this process kills salmonella too, and we are also testing this currently.”
If proven to have actual effect on salmonella, the company’s technique will have widespread effects, especially after eggs from multiple brands in Australia were recalled by Food Safety Australia New Zealand earlier in March this year and in September last year for potential salmonella infections.
According to the FSANZ website, the recall was due to a ‘potential microbial (Salmonella Enteritidis) contamination’. The affected companies this year included Ash and Sons and Bridgewater Poultry, whereas Glendenning Farms was affected last year.
“We are unsure just yet whether it kills it or has any effect, but any sort of effect it has on salmonella, whether slowing it down or others, will be an added advantage [and] a game-changer,” added Kos.
The company’s smoking process can be utilised on chicken eggs, duck eggs and quail eggs, although so far their packaged products concentrate on chicken eggs. All eggs used are free-range.
Packaged products include as a concentrated natural smoke flavouring as well as whole shelled eggs, liquid egg whites, liquid egg yolks and liquid whole eggs, which all impart a natural smoke flavour after being cooked.
The whole shelled eggs retail at A$6.50 (US$4.63) for six eggs in supermarkets, and all liquids at A$8.00 (US$5.70) per kg wholesale.
Patents and innovations
The Smoked Egg Company was only just launched earlier this year in Australia, but already holds the patent worldwide for the smoking process.
Within the Asia Pacific region, Kos has her eye on the markets in more developed markets such a Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and China.
“People [in the region] are willing to buy Australian milk as it’s safe to consume, and our eggs are safer than any other egg, so it would be good especially for young children, pregnant women, elderly folk and sick patients [to reduce their exposure to bacteria],” she said.
For the region, the company also intends to introduce options that are more focused on convenience, for example an egg omelette in a disc.
“We’re thinking of sending this over to China or Japan, where consumers can just pop it into the microwave straight out of the freezer, and then get an instant egg slider,” said Kos.
An additional advantage that the smoking process can confer, especially in Asian countries, is that it stops the natural ageing process of the egg.
“[Especially] in Asian countries where it becomes hot and humid, a lot of eggs do not poach well because it gets watery, [and this can prevent that],” she added.
That said, education and changing consumer mindsets has been the company’s single biggest challenge in terms of product promotion.
“One of the biggest challenges we face is that whenever ‘smoked’ is mentioned, people always automatically think that this means cooked, and this is not so – it’s a raw egg [and can be used for any application you want],” said Kos.
“The smoking process does not change the structure of the egg, and it will still do everything a normal egg does, from whipping to baking, [so the options are not as limited as people may mistakenly assume].”