Good Eggs

Pro­duc­ers, brands get crack­ing on in­no­va­tions that ap­peal to con­sumers.

Progressive Grocer (India) - - Contents - By Lynn Pe­trak

For a food that doesn’t stand up­right, the egg doesn’t seem to need much help stay­ing on top th­ese days. Per capita con­sump­tion of eggs is ex­pected to hit 274.6 in 2017, up from 267.4 in 2016 and 252.9 in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (USDA).

Once as­so­ci­ated with break­fast and as an in­gre­di­ent in var­i­ous hot dishes and baked goods, eggs are be­ing con­sumed in more ways and on more days. “What we are find­ing is con­sump­tion across all ages is up, and not just at break­fast, but at lunch and din­ner,” notes Ash­ley Richard­son, se­nior direc­tor of mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the Chicagob­ased Amer­i­can Egg Board (AEB).

De­spite sea­sonal volatil­ity in egg prices, the sim­ple fresh egg — once by and large a foam con­tainer com­mod­ity at re­tail — is more di­verse and in­no­va­tive in form, pack­ag­ing, mer­chan­dis­ing and ap­pli­ca­tions. “The trends in the mar­ket are re­flected in the mix of prod­ucts at re­tail,” says Kristin Her­zog, chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer for San Fran­cisco-based Happy Egg Co. USA, not­ing the cage-free, pas­tur­eraised, caged, liq­uid eggs, hard-cooked eggs and egg re­place­ments that are part of the cur­rent mar­ket.

There is also a pro­tein story to tell with eggs. Eggs are all­nat­u­ral, high­qual­ity pro­tein. — Ash­ley Richard­son Amer­i­can Egg Board

For Good­ness’ Sake

The uptick in egg con­sump­tion and ac­com­pa­ny­ing prod­uct di­ver­sity can be at­trib­uted to a va­ri­ety of fac­tors in the mar­ket­place, par­tic­u­larly bur­geon­ing in­ter­est among con­sumers in foods deemed whole­some and healthy.

Those broad de­scrip­tors cover a lot of at­tributes that ap­ply to egg prod­ucts sold in su­per­mar­kets.

Con­sumer de­mand for the hu­mane treat­ment of hens is one ma­jor in­flu­encer in the cur­rent egg mar­ket­place. In re­cent years, hun­dreds of gro­cers and man­u­fac­tur­ers have switched to or ex­panded cage-free egg of­fer­ings or pro­duc­tion, ac­cord­ing to the USDA, with an op­ti­mal timetable of 2020-25 for con­ver­sion.

De­spite the fact that cage-free hens are cur­rently pro­duc­ing about 10 per­cent of the to­tal egg sup­ply, and that cage-free eggs re­quire con­sid­er­able in­vest­ments by farmers and pro­duc­ers to be passed on as a higher price point for con­sumers, sales of cage-free eggs are con­tin­u­ing to climb, while other prod­uct-re­lated claims, like pas­ture-raised and freerange, are also emerg­ing and ex­pand­ing.

Ear­lier this year, Boise, Idaho-based Al­ber­stons Cos. re­vealed the ex­pan­sion of its com­mit­ment to carry only cage-free eggs by 2025 to in­clude liq­uid eggs. “Broad­en­ing our cage-free com­mit­ment will keep the con­ver­sa­tion go­ing and, hope­fully, con­tinue the in­dus­try’s work in hu­mane sourc­ing and cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity,” re­marked Shane Samp­son, chief mar­ket­ing and mer­chan­dis­ing of­fi­cer, at the time of the an­nounce­ment.

Fresh Thyme Farmers Mar­ket, a Chicago-are­abased spe­cialty re­tailer that fo­cuses on healthy and or­ganic prod­ucts, pledges to sell 100 per­cent cage­free eggs by 2022. “My cus­tomers are buy­ing more cage-free eggs than ever be­fore. They are ‘vot­ing’ for

cage-free with their pur­chas­ing power,” notes Si­mon Cutts, direc­tor of gro­cery, adding that the com­pany re­cently up­dated its own brand pack­ag­ing to call out cage-free eggs.

For their part, many egg com­pa­nies are ze­ro­ing in on con­sumers’ in­ter­est in, and knowl­edge of, hu­manely pro­duced eggs. Nest­fresh, a Den­ver-based pro­ducer of sus­tain­able, lo­cal, hu­mane and nat­u­ral eggs, re­cently launched a line of pas­ture-raised eggs, in­clud­ing or­ganic, non-gmo and soy-free of­fer­ings, which has earned Cer­ti­fied Hu­mane Ver­i­fi­ca­tion from Hern­don, Va.-based Hu­mane Farm An­i­mal Care.

From her per­spec­tive of work­ing with a brand spe­cial­iz­ing in free-range eggs, Happy Egg’s Her­zog sees a par­al­lel track in de­mand and ed­u­ca­tion. “Along­side in­ter­est in hu­manely raised eggs, there is more in­ter­est in un­der­stand­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tions and claims in egg pack­ag­ing,” she says, adding that con­sumers seem to link hu­mane treat­ment and taste. “There are dif­fer­ences in how eggs are laid, but there is also a fla­vor and qual­ity dif­fer­ence in hu­manely raised eggs.”

In ad­di­tion to pro­duc­tion-re­lated con­cerns about whole­some­ness, the cur­rent mar­ket for eggs con­sumed at break­fast and, in­creas­ingly, at other times of the day, is shaped by in­ter­est in foods that are nat­u­rally high in pro­tein. Ac­cord­ing to the Washington, D.c.-based In­ter­na­tional Food In­for­ma­tion Coun­cil Foun­da­tion (IFIC), more than two-thirds (64 per­cent) of con­sumers say that they’re try­ing to con­sume more pro­tein, com­pared with 54 per­cent in 2015.

“Eggs are al­ready a house­hold sta­ple — Nielsen data shows house­hold pen­e­tra­tion is at 94 per­cent — but there is also a pro­tein story to tell with eggs,” as­serts AEB’S Richard­son. “Eggs are all-nat­u­ral, high-qual­ity pro­tein.”

In con­trast to di­etary con­cerns about eggs in the 1980s and into the ‘90s, to­day’s con­sumers rec­og­nize their ben­e­fits. “Eggs, along with dairy and meat items in the re­frig­er­ated case, are well po­si­tioned to cap­i­tal­ize on th­ese trends,” says Brandy Ga­mon­ing, mar­ket­ing man­ager at Nest­fresh “Fea­tur­ing a sin­gle in­gre­di­ent or a short list of whole-food in­gre­di­ents, th­ese items are seen as in­her­ently nat­u­ral and an easy step to clean­ing up and sim­pli­fy­ing di­ets while pro­vid­ing pro­tein.”

Be­yond pro­tein, eggs are rich in other nu­tri­ents — some more than oth­ers. Eg­g­land’s Best brand claims that its eggs pro­vide 10 times more vi­ta­min E, more than dou­ble the amount of vi­ta­min B12, six times more vi­ta­min D, dou­ble the omega-3 and more lutein, among other nu­tri­ents. “The ex­tra nu­tri­ents in our eggs come from spe­cial feed given to our hens,” ex­plains Dave Holdsworth, VP, mar­ket­ing at the Malvern, Pa.-based com­pany, cit­ing the hens’ all-vege­tar­ian diet com­pris­ing healthy grains, canola oil, and a spe­cial sup­ple­ment of rice bran, al­falfa, sea kelp and vi­ta­min A.

Health-and-well­ness con­cerns are spurring in­no­va­tion in var­i­ous types of egg re­place­ments and al­ter­na­tives as well. “In ad­di­tion to the al­lergy/ sen­si­tiv­ity com­mu­nity, we have seen con­sid­er­able growth in the num­ber of ve­gans and plant-based con­sumers, which has re­flected pos­i­tively in the de­mand for more op­tions and im­proved al­ter­na­tives,” says Kather­ine Franklin, direc­tor of mar­ket­ing for Canoga Park, Calif.-based Fol­low Your Heart, which of­fers a pourable liq­uid egg re­place­ment called Ve­ganegg.

Mean­while, given peo­ple’s pen­chant for all-day snack­ing, the ready-to-eat hard-cooked egg seg­ment is worth watch­ing within the over­all egg cat­e­gory. “Al­though only hard-boiled eggs are over­all still a small portion of the mar­ket, we are start­ing to see large growth,” says Richard­son. “We’re en­cour­aged by that, es­pe­cially with con­sumers who want what they want when they want it.”

“Fur­ther chang­ing the way con­sumers eat, snack­ing has over­taken meals al­to­gether,” agrees Ga­mon­ing, adding that Nest­fresh now of­fers a va­ri­ety of hard-cooked eggs, in­clud­ing or­ganic and cage-free SKUS.

At Eg­g­land’s Best, Holdsworth also points to the spike in de­mand for con­ve­nience foods, which has fu­eled in­ter­est in the com­pany’s hard-cooked and peeled-egg prod­ucts. Eg­g­land’s Best in­tro­duced or­ganic hard-cooked peeled eggs ear­lier this year.

In ad­di­tion to the al­lergy/ sen­si­tiv­ity com­mu­nity, we have seen con­sid­er­able growth in the num­ber of ve­gans and plant-based con­sumers, which has re­flected pos­i­tively in the de­mand for more op­tions and im­proved al­ter­na­tives. — Kather­ine Franklin Fol­low Your Heart

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