The Lion egg is 10 years old and set to enter a new era with a revised code of practice and ambitious marketing campaign.
In the 10 years that have passed since the British Lion quality mark was launched, the sector has turned its fortunes around, with egg sales increasing and a healthy image with consumers.
This is in stark contrast to 1997, when the sector was still struggling years after the Edwina Currie salmonella crisis in 1988.
As British Egg Industry Council chairman Andrew Parker recalls: “In every food poisoning outbreak, eggs were being blamed. We were not seen to be responsible as an industry and egg consumption was declining.
“Consumers had not fully returned to buying eggs. It wasn’t just consumers – cook-books and chefs steered clear of eggs, too.”
Amanda Cryer, director of the British Egg Information Service, adds: “In 1997 we carried out extensive consumer research to find out why this was so.
“It revealed consumers were still worried about eggs and health, particularly mothers. They also saw modern convenience foods as being more exciting than eggs, and a lack of advertising was exacerbating the problem.”
The industry decided something had to be done, because there was still great underlying potential for growth. There was also a technological development – a salmonella vaccine for poultry.
So the BEIC launched the Lion egg with help from a Poultry World campaign asking for producers to sign up. “We got £500,000 on the back of the Poultry World article,” says Mr Parker.
In total, the industry invested £8m, half for implementing the new code, including vaccination, and the rest for a concerted advertising campaign.
“There was debate between those wanting to invest in the code and others in an advertising campaign,” says Mrs Cryer. “But it soon came clear that both were needed. It was no good putting all the hard work into the code if you didn’t tell consumers about it.”
Mr Parker adds: “It was a large investment by egg producers, particularly considering there was some doubt whether it would work and that consumers would come back to eggs.”
But it wasn’t until 2001 that Lion saw the real benefit, with a government report showing human cases of salmonella were declining and the media starting to carrying positive articles about eggs again.
“This was reflected in a 2001 survey which found that consumer concern about the safety of eggs was replaced with ambivalence, so the focus of the Lion marketing campaign moved to positioning eggs as a contemporary meal,” says Mrs Cryer.
Then, three years later, Edwina Currie herself endorsed Lion eggs as safe.
So, 10 years on, egg producers have seen the decline in retail sales halted, and this year the market has returned to growth, with sales predicted to be about 200,000 cases up on 2007.
“Lion egg is a real agricultural success story,” says Mrs Cryer.
New era for Lion mark
Next year sees Lion eggs enter a new era, with a marketing campaign focusing on health and “Eggonomics”. Consumer research shows people love eggs and there is a high awareness and understanding of the Lion mark, says Amanada Cryer, director of the British Egg Information Service. “However, there is still confusion over the recommended limits on egg consumption.”
The Food Standards Agency did put a limit on the recomnmended number of eggs consumed because of concerns over cholesterol, but this was dropped by the agency recently based on increasing scientific evidence that there was no link.
One objective of next year’s campaign is to develop the “healthy” perception of eggs by tackling the cholesterol issue head on with a review of published data.
Another health message is “Nutrition for Future”, one example being eggs meeting the needs of an ageing population. Eggs have a key role as a good source of vitamin D, by helping to tackle iron deficiency and can help prevent macular degeneration, which can cause blindness.
Then there will Eggonomics, with Lion helping families to “crack the credit crunch”. Mrs Cryer says: “This element of our campaign will reinforce the value-for-money message with a series of new recipes for under £1.
“And, finally, we will build on the success of the Eggs Factor competition with a junior version to get kids into the kitchen. Children will also be asked to come up with a recipe for their chosen character, such as a sports star or TV personality.”
Lion egg products will also feature in the campaign, as retailers are now specifying Lion egg products.
- See a selection of Lion egg TV adverts on this site or visit http://www.britegg.co.uk/ for more Lion Egg news
Lion code of practice
Last month saw the launch of a revised Lion code of practice, which aims to further enhance the traceability of eggs.