Branding eggs offers the industry opportunities, but not without challenges, because eggs are perceived as a commodity. That’s the view of Beth Schnell, Sparboe Farms, Litchfield, Minn., who spoke at last month’s International Egg Commission meeting.

Schnell says that successful companies will:

  • Move away from the commodity orientation of the past,
  • Understand what motivates consumers to buy eggs and develop brands accordingly,
  • Differentiate brands to meet consumer needs, such as: value, health enhanced, egg size/pack size, animal care, organics/lifestyle or egg color,
  • Focus on the “price value” relationship, which would be the key to long-term success,
  • Achieve higher margins and support the brand, and
  • Take advantage of the positive scientific news related to the health benefits from eggs.

Schnell expects the marketing of eggs to change as much in the next 10 years as it had in the past 10. In 1987, there were 2,500 U.S. egg companies owning 75,000 or more layers and there was no attempt to brand eggs nationally. Individual companies branding success was limited to local markets.

Two key factors had changed everything, she says. The first was consolidation in the industry with just 260 companies with flocks of more than 75,000, of which 11 had over 5 million birds. And second was the introduction of specialty eggs, such as Omega 3, organic and cage free. However, in 2006, private label/store brands still had a retail market share of over 76%. Of the 53 largest markets in the United States, only 10 had branded eggs with a more than 10% market share. The larger pack sizes (18 eggs/carton or more) were the key to the branded market share in eight of these ten.

Only two companies have successfully developed market shares of over 10% with 12 egg packs leading the way, Schnell says. Larger sized eggs dominate the branded sectors in the Super Center and Club Store markets, in particular 18 and 60 eggs packs. While Land O’Lakes introduced branded eggs nationally some six years ago, they currently have only a 0.7% share of the supermarket sector, she says. However, recent years have witnessed successful marketing of specialty eggs, with Eggland’s Best currently having a market share of 4%, and Horizon and Organic Valley also marketing nationally, Schnell says.

There are a number of regional producer brands such as her company, Hillandale, and Manhard. In 2006 supermarkets accounted for 72.8% of retail egg sales, Super Centers 13.9%, Club Stores 6.7% and others 6.6%. Regarding egg size, 74.2% were Large, 11.2% Extra Large, 8% Medium and 6.3% Jumbo. In terms of pack size, 61.3% of eggs were purchased retail in 12-egg cartons, 28.1% in 18-egg packs, 5.5% in 30-egg, 1.9% in 60-egg containers, with just 1.7% in 6-egg packs.

However, she says that the most successful food brands that were household names in the United States had not only had a long heritage, but had spent billions of dollars on promotion.