Regarded as a premium ingredient with a high value-added perception from the consumer, eggs also hold a strong appeal for product formulators due to their wide range of functionalities, including coagulation, emulsification, foaming and crystallisation control. Soaring prices for grains such as soy and corn - that have seen feed costs leap by 30 per cent in twelve months - have hit egg prices particularly hard because the cost of feed is a large slice of overall costs when compared to other livestock such as beef cattle. And while bakers have been obliged to absorb the rising price for ingredients sourced from eggs, or to pass the rise in costs onto their customers, ingredients makers are reporting a growing demand from bakers for egg replacers that could help simmer down costs. From salted yolk preparations to pasteurised egg-based atomisers for golden glazes on pastry, ingredients from eggs are used widely in baked goods like cakes and biscuits. But replacing this natural ingredient that boasts appealing functionalities as well as a range of nutrients including protein, essential vitamins A, D, E, and B as well as minerals iron, phosphorus and zinc, is a major challenge for food developers. "It is not an easy task because the egg is so complex," says Dr. Udo Scharf, director of the new innovation centre for bakery ingredients at Dutch firm CSM. The bakery ingredients supplier, that last month unveiled a new innovation centre in Germany to focus on developing bakery ingredients for the international market, has egg replacers on the radar, examining all manner of potential egg replacers. "Replacers are mainly offered by the dairy industry - in particular protein fractions sourced from milk protein," Dr. Scharf explains to BakeryandSnacks.com. The firm's new innovation centre in Germany, that aims to generate knowledge and basic building blocks for new product development in the area of formulation and processing for bakers, investigated specific applications where eggs are used in order to establish necessary criteria for product formulation. "In nearly all cases we witnessed a need to adapt the whole formulation, as opposed to just replacing the egg ingredient," he continues, highlighting the R&D challenge in hand for bakers investigating alternatives to eggs. According to the innovation centre director, CSM can offer its customers a series of building blocks that they can adapt to product needs, and that will optimise formulations to make the 'best use of ingredients and additives'. Elsewhere, in a bid to offset some raw material costs for bakers, US firm Advanced Food Systems has launched its BakeRite ingredient systems as an alternative to using whole egg solids. The firm claims its ingredient - that uses a blend of starches and gum to mimic an egg - can replace up to 60 per cent of the whole egg used in baked goods, . Further, Arizona-based Gum Technologies recently introduced a new line of hydrocolloid and stabiliser blends to replace eggs in custards, doughs and baked goods to try and help manufacturers tackle rising egg prices. But for the moment, demand from bakers for egg replacers is only starting to trickle in with the premium, natural appeal of eggs underpinning their popularity and still apparently holding sway over costs. Indeed, a popularity that sees UK consumers alone eating 29 million eggs a day and 10 billion eggs a year, according to 2008 figures from the British Egg Information Service.