The value of UK retail egg sales is set to rise by nearly 40% over the next five years, but there is potential for further growth by capitalising on eggs’ convenience and promoting their health credentials more, according to a new report.

It its latest Eggs Market Intelligence report, market research firm Mintel has predicted that the value of retail egg sales will rise from £595m last year to nearly £900m in 2013. But overall numbers will remain largely similar over the same period.

The outlook is particularly positive for free-range, which has seen sales rise by one-third since 2003 at the expense of cage eggs, down 11% in the same period.

The failure of the barn sector to grow as cage sales declined suggests consumers have no awareness of the difference between cage and barn eggs. But the report suggests that: “This sector may receive a boost as more consumers begin to comprehend differences in hen welfare systems and Sainsbury’s supports barn eggs while imposing a ban on caged eggs from its own label.”

Looking ahead, the report’s author Mathilde Dudouite identified a number of opportunities to help drive sales even further, such as tapping into the convenience market.

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According to a Mintel survey, one in three consumers does not have eggs in their fridge, particularly men and childless couples. Therefore, convenience products may appeal to them. Chilled ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook products could help extend use beyond breakfast.

She adds: “Eggs are ideal for a quick sandwich or lunch box. Again, the time to prepare boiled eggs may be limiting frequency of consumption, providing opportunities for ready-to-eat products.”

About 1.7bn lunch boxes are prepared each year and, following government action, school lunch boxes are getting healthier. Cheese and ham are quick to prepare into a sandwich and their market size dwarfs that of the total egg market.

UK producer Noble Foods is looking to tap into this, having launched a chilled ready-to-eat hard-boiled egg. Marketing manager Finn Cottle agrees about the value of ready-to-eat eggs.

Another factor identified by Ms Dudouite is the mix of media coverage over the past three years. There is a large body of scientific evidence encouraging egg consumption, but the media have emphasised negative stories, leading to consumer confusion over eggs’ health benefits.

She highlighted the Food Standards Agency’s lifting of its recommended maximum consumption of three a day to avoid a rise in cholesterol levels on the back of scientific evidence. “It suggests that this needs communicating more widely, as consumers have yet to realise this, as suggested in consumer surveys.”

Also: “As eggs are synonymous with the traditional fried breakfast, there is still a strong connection with unhealthy fried foods.”

Want to know more

  • For further information on Mintel’s UK egg market report, contact Tabitha Dudeney by phone (020 7606 6000) or click here to email.