Healthy makeover lifting eggs sales in UK

Related tags Nutrition

A major push to highlight the health benefits of eggs has helped
the UK industry to increase both volume sales and their profits
over recent years, according to a new report.

It also underlines how increasing consumer interest in health is not only boosting sales of functional foods, but can also rejuvenate sales of staples too.

New Mintel data shows that UK egg consumption is on the rise, with sales up 10 per cent during 1999-2003. But value sales have increased by double this amount, some 23 per cent during the same period, due to consumers trading up to premium egg varieties, says the market research firm.

Some of these premium products include eggs with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, such as Colombus eggs marketed by Deans Foods​.

Last year the company managed to increase sales of these eggs, which come from hens fed a special, patented diet that increases the omega-3 content of their eggs to more than 600mg per egg, by around 40 per cent, Peter Challands, marketing director at Deans Foods told

He admitted that launching the product had initially been hard work, given the low consumer awareness of omega-3 fatty acids in 1998. However omega-3 fatty acids are now one of the fastest growing functional food ingredients, and also expected to have long-lasting growth​.

A TV advertising campaign launched by Deans Foods last year created new customers and allowed the firm to increase distribution. The retail volume is now worth over £9 million (€13.5m), said Challands, with distribution in all the major supermarket chains.

Deans Foods has around 90 per cent of the healthier egg market but sales of its regular eggs have also benefited from diet-conscious consumers.

"Last year the Atkins diet definitely had a benefit on our sales, which rose a couple of per cent,"​ said Challands.

A significant increase for a staple food that has, until recently, seen declining sales for many years.

Much of this has to do with restored confidence in egg safety and its nutritional merits. Recent medical findings have contradicted the damaging health warnings issued in the 1990s suggesting that eggs raised cholesterol levels.

"We have seen a much improved environment for selling eggs in. The two big consumer fears - salmonella and cholesterol - have slipped down the list of concerns,"​ noted Challands.

Restored confidence in egg safety, is largely due to the Lion Mark egg scheme introduced in 1998, which guarantees that laying hens have been vaccinated against salmonella.

Meanwhile the UK government now states that eggs offer considerable health benefits because of their high omega-3 content, together with essential vitamins and minerals. Once-a-day consumption is now recommended.

"There is a stack of evidence showing that eating up to an egg a day has no effect on cholesterol levels. People in nutrition know that it is a red herring but now the public is beginning to get the message,"​ said Challands.

Mintel notes that modern lifestyles, convenience cooking and the rising number of one-person households have also contributed to the growth in egg sales.

Eggs not only serve as a convenience cooking item, versatile for bothmeals and snacks, but also offer a nutritious and healthy alternative to many of the highly processed snacks and ready meals that are nowsuffering under the intense focus of the media.

Challands confirmed: "The whole obesity debate is bringing more attention back onto staple foods that offer real benefits."

Mintel estimates suggest that per capita egg consumption has risen from 1.46per person per week in 1999 to 1.58 in 2003, with consumers (includingchildren) spending almost 19 pence per person per week on shell eggs.

It has also forecast an optimistic future for the food. The retail egg market is expected to continue growing by 1.3 per cent in volumeterms with a higher value growth due to consumers trading up to premium brands.

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