With cases and panic buying on the rise again, a Geelong business is providing the good news story that Victoria needs this week.
Julie and Paul Kos founded the Smoked Egg Company in 2017, and while their intent was originally to create an interesting flavour profile, they discovered their patented cold smoking process gives the eggs an extraordinary shelf life, a trait that has particular appeal in a pandemic where stockpiling essentials has become the norm.
CEO Julie Kos says the discovery of their product's long life potential was "a complete accident," but they have seen increasing value in their technology as they have watched hoarders strip supermarket shelves for essentials like fresh eggs, which typically have a shelf life of three weeks, even when pasteurised. Others are seeing the value too, with the United States and the Netherlands licensing the Kos' process.
The couple invested in their Barwon River egg farm, Kossies Free Range Eggs, 15 years ago and always planned to diversify, but their first trial smoking eggs was purely owed to Paul's hobby using a smoker at home. "He started smoking everything," says Julie, who as a former chef saw the commercial potential once she tasted their eggs imbued with rich smoky quality.
Johnny di Francesco, an award-winning Melbourne chef and founder of the Gradi Group agrees, and says "their flavour lights up the kitchen." He uses the products in his 14 restaurants to create the likes of a signature smoky carbonara and a smoked egg burger.
While the unique flavour has led to a sweet and savoury line of products including smoked lemon curd and meringues, the preservative effect of smoking the eggs has proved revolutionary.
Julie Kos first noticed it in home usage. Unlike a regular raw egg, the smoked product held its form for days, weeks, and after some home experimentation, months. She says "normally, the white (albumen) deteriorates and becomes liquid so you can't use it for poaching. But these held their form."
Results from a National Association of Testing Authorities lab, an independent body, showed that over the course of 18 weeks, a standard raw egg developed 21 million colonies of spoilage bacteria while the smoked egg developed just 100. The safe zone is considered to be less than 10,000.
Food safety auditor and consultant Tatania Larocca says these numbers indicate that the smoking process effectively stalled the ageing process, and this shouldn't be surprising as "smoking has been used as a preservation method for thousands of years."
While the decision to smoke eggs may have been a fortuitous accident, Julie says that getting the product to the point where they have now patented their process and licensed it internationally has taken two years of research and development. The company has worked both with Petrie and two engineers to develop the system that imbues flavour, and stalls the ageing process without ever getting the egg above seven degrees.
"People say we're disrupting the egg industry," says Julie, "but I think it's more than that. We're creating an entirely new industry that the world is noticing. And I'm proud that we can do that for Victoria, and Geelong."
The Smoked Egg Company products are stocked nationally at IGA stores.