Eggs are back. Per capita egg consumption in the US grew to 260 last year, and sales of eggs were up by more than 11 percent for the year weeks ended February 27, according to SymphonyIRI. Meanwhile, sales of egg substitutes dropped by more than 7 percent.
And that was before the new advice by the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which suggested that dietary cholesterol no longer is considered a threat per se to the health of Americans. In other words: Eat all the eggs—which are heavy in dietary cholesterol—that you want.
The new findings are the latest step for the egg’s nutritional image rehabilitation. Sidelined in the 1980s by concerns over their cholesterol content, eggs have been coming back for years.
Private labels dominate the US egg business, and by far the top brand is Eggland. Horizon, on the next tier down, is owned by organic and natural brand Dean Foods, which licenses the egg trade to Hidden Villa, with egg farms in Colorado, California, Connecticut, New York and elsewhere.
— Horizon Organic (@Horizon_Organic) March 26, 2015
brandchannel talked with Jasen Arena, Marketing Manager for California-based Hidden Villa, about being in the egg business.
brandchannel: How has your company participated in the recent egg boom?
Jasen Urena: We are on the specialty side of the business, so organics have been huge for us, as well as cage-free and other natural varieties of eggs, including pasture-raised, non-GMO and free-range. They’ve all had big sales increases over the past three years.
Consumers are becoming more educated about the food they feed to their families. And they’re starting to align products they buy with their own personal core values—whether they’re concerned about animal welfare or environmental sustainability. They’re realizing that the eggs they’ve been buying aren’t necessarily lined up with their values, so they’re shifting over to us.
bc: You’ve been the eggs licensee of Horizon for about 10 years. How has that worked out for you?
Urena: Horizon is well known throughout the country—it’s one of the best-known organic brands. And it has a halo effect throughout the whole grocery store, in milk, cheese and cottage cheese—those types of things.
Putting eggs along with dairy under the Horizon brand made a lot of sense. It brings Horizon brand loyalists into the egg category and gives them another touchpoint in the store. We’ve seen good sales increases in the Horizon brand and all organic eggs.
bc: Have eggs benefitted from new dietary thinking?
Urena: Yes, not only in the area of dietary cholesterol but also how consumers have been moving toward protein.
Protein has become a big thing—the health trend is just continuing to get stronger and stronger and people are trying to live healthier and more fit lives. And we’re starting to see companies in categories like breakfast cereals and snack items recognize this, so a company like Post recently bought Michaels Foods, a processed-egg company, to try to get more into protein.
The future of grocery will be driven by protein, and consumers and eggs line up perfectly with that.
bc: McDonald’s is experimenting with breakfast all day. Are there other ways for eggs to break out of the morning routine?
Urena: Yes, eggs have been crossing those boundaries. They aren’t just for breakfast anymore.
For instance, we’re starting to see more demand from foodservice companies looking to put fried eggs on hamburgers. And we’re starting to see pizzas with sunny side up eggs on them. And we’re starting to see a lot of people having plain breakfast types of items for lunch or dinner.
That has been increasing over the past couple of years. That will continue because of protein trends. And meanwhile the prices of pork and chicken and other proteins are increasing pretty considerably. The value per gram of protein is much better for eggs.
bc: And what do you think of the new “eggs and Bacon” advertising by the American Egg Board featuring Kevin Bacon?
Urena: That’s a clever play on words. We’ll see what type of effect it has.