LONG-TERM prospects for the retail egg sector are “not good”, says a report on the UK shell egg industry from Corporate Intelligence on Retailing. With egg consumption lowest among the younger half of the population, the pattern is set for decline over time, suggests the report.

It draws on information from the National Food Survey, which shows that consumption of eggs in a household rises steadily with the age of the main shopper, from 1.34 eggs/person/week for under 25s, to 2.67 for those aged 65-74 ( although for over 75s it drops back a bit to 2.30 eggs per capita). The biggest differential is from age 35 to 55, when consumption rises from 1.35 eggs to 2.50 eggs per year.

“Future generations are unlikely to view the egg as such a dietary staple and consumption is likely to fall,” predicts the report.

Egg consumption is also strongly but negatively correlated with household income. Average consumption is over 2.22 eggs/ person/ week in households where there is no wage earner, and rises to 2.64 where the head of the household is a pensioner (see below).

In comparison average consumption is lower for all wage-earning households and drops with rising income – from 1.98 for the lowest earners, down to 1.56 where the main breadwinner has an income of £300-600 a week. Above this it recovers slightly to 1.62 eggs for those earning over £600 a week.

Expenditure on eggs naturally follows the same pattern, but with an overlying trend for higher earners to buy more expensive eggs too. This need not entirely be explained as a leaning towards alternative systems, and could reflect a preference for larger eggs as well.

The section on the four big packers (Daylay, Stonegate, Thames Valley Eggs, Deans Farm) shows that the industry runs on slim margins. Pre-tax profit for the four in 1996 (a good year) ranged from 2.2% to 5.4% on turnover. Much of the information in the 23-page report would be familiar to those in the industry but the report does provide an introductory overview. Further sections deal with market size and output, production methods, trade, marketing, and profitability.

  • For this and other stories, see Poultry World, 1 May-4 June, 1998

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    Egg consumption