Egg marketing has a long way to go if the sector is to make the most of the opportunities on offer, according to Prof David Hughes of Imperial College, London.
The “boredom zone” is how he describes the egg fixture in most supermarkets, saying there is little excitement or theatre. Even online, eggs are hard to find and the messages are often confusing.
Yet the egg sector has enormous opportunities to grow its market. In a recessionary climate, where shopper confidence is low and everyone is looking to get “more for less”, eggs offer both convenience and value for money.
Changing demographics can also help, as an ageing population typically eats less meat and tries to eat healthier. “As you get older you try to fix the harm you’ve done in the previous 40 years. That has to flag up an opportunity for eggs.”
But possibly the greatest opportunity comes from the constant drip feed of bad news surrounding red meat, he suggests.
Concerns about the poor health and environmental impact of red meat have led to the emergence of Meatless Mondays, while the horsemeat scandal has further undermined confidence. “The meat industry has done a very good job at shooting itself in the foot,” says Prof Hughes, pointing to the revelation in February that 99% of the meat found in Findus beef lasagne was horsemeat. “That provides another tick for eggs.”
But to capitalise on these opportunities, the egg sector needs to improve its marketing.
“In a scary food world we need to shout about eggs’ naturalness, their localness, and particularly the really traceable supply chains,” says Prof Hughes. “Tesco wants shorter and transparent supply chains. The egg sector has got that nailed. You just need to shout about it.”
The sector also needs to boast about the “astonishing” value for money of eggs, their ease of preparation and the predictability of the end result.
“Egg-based meals are great from the children’s point of view. We’re always looking to get them to eat more greens, and an egg-based meal is a great vehicle for hidden vegetables, as well as a carrier for ketchup.”
Marketers should focus on the “three moments of truth” – when the consumer is at the retail shelf looking to purchase, at the point of food preparation, and at the point of consumption.
To maximise the return from these occasions, it is important to get the product noticed with imaginative and colourful packaging. “We want boredom zone out, theatre in.”
There is also a need to expand the household’s egg repertoire, and remind meal preparers that eggs are something that can be made into a main meal.
Prof Hughes also recommends forging links with fast-moving consumer goods companies, such as PepsiCo and Heinz, which value the “halo effect” of eggs. “Heinz, with its beans and ketchup, seems to be a natural ally in promoting its own products with eggs.”
He also suggests teaming up with healthcare professionals. “There is still a concern among consumers as to whether eggs are good or bad for you. We need ambassadors who can give us ‘permission’ to use eggs.”
The sector also needs to do a stronger job of establishing eggs’ protein credentials, in terms of satiety and weight management. “And you need to highlight your 21st- century sustainability and environmental credentials – really shout about it.”
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