When it comes to marketing eggs, then the British Egg Information Service knows a thing or two. Scott Casey talks to BEIS director Amanda Cryer
Looking back over the last year, what have been the big campaigns for the BEIS?
“For the past two years we have spent most of the marketing budget on what was the last major barrier to consumption, the whole cholesterol issue. We’ve also pushed the ‘satiety’ [feeling full] message, which has been really popular with consumer magazines and food writers. We have had pages and pages of coverage.”
What are the big campaigns of 2011?
“We started with the Lion brand when it was launched, then moved to ‘appetite’ and last year we focused on ‘health’. This year we think there is room to bring these three together. It’s about integrating our messages, but also reinforcing the Lion message, both by updating its visibility and investing more in our communication with retailers, foodservice and wholesale.”
What is the budget of BEIS? How has it changed over the last few years?
“Our total marketing budget for 2011 is £900,000 [compared with £3-4m during the launch of Lion Eggs in 1998] and it’s been at that level for a couple of years. Every penny of that is subscribers’ cash and we think they get value for money.”
As a subscriber-funded organisation, how does the BEIS demonstrate the value of its work in marketing eggs to consumers?
“At the end of last year, just the editorial media coverage was worth £2.4m – if we had paid for it based on advertising rates. We’re really pleased we’ve managed to increase the value of coverage over the last year [from just under £2m worth in 2009] when we had the ‘lifting the limits’ campaign.”
What sort of impact did the dioxin scare in Europe have on the BEIS and its activities?
“That was an opportunity we hadn’t anticipated and it really reinforced the message we’ve been saying for a few years. We put advertisements into the retail and trade press to remind retailers, caterers and food manufacturers that the Lion safety message is not just about salmonella, it’s about feed. It just shows the controls we have in the UK, with the Lion scheme, work. We don’t get these scares, because the feed fed to the hens is very carefully monitored.”
What is the BEIS doing in the lead up to the 2012 conventional cage-ban?
“We are really trying to get the message across to trade buyers that they need to move quickly. They can’t leave it to November or December of this year. The message is ‘make sure you talk to your suppliers to secure a legal supply, and if you want to be sure about legal cage eggs, specify Lion’.”
Advertising for eggs invariably shows chickens foraging in green fields or partying in the countryside. Obviously these aren’t realistic impressions. Could the disparity between reality and advertising become an issue for consumers and a problem for the industry?
“Advertising any system – free-range, barn, enriched or conventional cage – based purely production is dangerous because farming eggs and looking after hens has some elements consumers would be surprised about. I don’t think [production method] is what motivates consumers. Clearly, some care very much about the environment or animal welfare, but most people who buy eggs buy them to feed the family or because they are healthy or tasty. They are not buying them because they are thinking about the hens. Promoting the system of production is always going to be fraught with difficulties.”
Is branding the way forward for selling more eggs?
“Branding is fantastic. If there could be more investment by companies in branding then that would be great. The industry needs more marketing money to sell more eggs and we’ve got such a great product there’s no reason why companies couldn’t do it. Packaging has still got to be one of the greatest opportunities. Look at cereals or any other fixture. There is so much more that could be done. Eggs could be one of the biggest rising food items.”
Egg farmers are currently producing for an over-supplied market and are losing money. Is there space for farmers to go out and market their eggs directly?
“Possibly, if they have local opportunities or markets. If they can do anything locally to increase consumption or use then I think that’s the key. Whether that’s talking to their customers about putting promotions into local schools or hotels, then that’s great.”