Highlighting the American Egg Board of Director’s meeting in November was the gala celebration honoring President Lou Raffel’s retirement and 30 years service with AEB. The organization is 30 years old and Lou has been at its helm since it was started, by referendum, in 1976.
AEB has grown and prospered since its inception and has been the driving force for egg promotion over the years. Lou has been the leader of a dedicated staff that has put together many programs that tout the benefits of eggs in the diet and created public relations and advertising featuring eggs and their positive uses.
In early years of the American Egg Board, the industry was facing severe criticism of the health issues with eggs, namely cholesterol. The medical profession warned consumers that eggs were harmful in the diet and would clog arteries leading to heart problems. To combat this negative concept, AEB established the Egg Nutrition Center and started work to eliminate this theory. Today, thanks to the work of Dr. Don McNamara and the ENC, eggs increasingly are viewed as a positive ingredient for healthy living. The promotional material now coming from AEB shows the great nutritional value of eggs and the effort has gone from defensive to offensive. The AEB can now point out how eating eggs is beneficial for overall health.
American Egg Board Chair Wayne Mooney called the board meeting to order November 2. Blair Van Zetten gave the financial report that finances were in very good shape. Kurt Kreher reported for the Executive Committee and announced the nominees for the various area representatives. He also announced that there will be discussion at the March AEB meeting regarding funding for an Egg Industry Center at Iowa State University. The entire Board of Directors then voted unanimously to select Joanne Ivy as the new AEB President and CEO.
Jim Brock, Chairman of the Industry and Market Development Committee reported on their activities. Highlights were presented to the Board for their approval. Jim Sumner and Jennifer Geek from USAPEEC gave a detailed update of this organization’s activities in the foreign marketing of eggs and egg products. Export sales of shell eggs remain about the same with the growth coming in the egg product areas. They have had good results from the food shows in many countries. Fear of AI seems to be subsiding.
Of special interest was the showing of a 30 second ad from Hong Kong telling viewers eggs from the United States were good to purchase. USAPEEC has also been responsible for seminars held in Japan and the Philippines, teaching chefs and other food handling people the benefits and methods of using eggs. Other areas of the world that USAPEEC has been active in include Singapore, Mexico, Dominican Republic, the Middle East, and Europe. The latter poses some problems for the sales of eggs and egg products due to tariff quotas imposed in the EU. USAPEEC recommends continuing their activities with seminars, trade shows, workshops, advertising and promotion in all of these areas of the world.
Retail Marketing Programs
The retail marketing programs from this committee were reported by Joanne Ivy. Several publications are available regarding retail egg presentations. These include “Room for Improvement, Making the Case for Eggs” and a new “Super Star” booklet which shows retailers why eggs are the most profitable item in the store. There have been several ads in Supermarket News and other grocery magazines depicting the health benefits of eating eggs. The AEB publication Eggstra is going to retailers and buyers throughout the country and an effort will be made in 2007 to update the mailing list for this letter. In addition, AEB is conducting magazine food editor visits in N.Y. to educate them on the benefits of eggs.
Dave Furstoss, Pactiv, gave a slide presentation to the Committee entitled “Finding Demand”. Using available data from USDA, AC Nielson and Nielson Supermarket, information can be gathered and used to assist the industry to more accurately determine costs, prices, and areas of greatest sales. All of the information can be pulled together for the industry to use. More will be discussed on this broad topic at the March AEB meeting.
Dr. Glenn Froning discussed the research projects that he is conducting on behalf of the egg industry, including the development of a rapid test kit for yolk contamination, effect of yolk contamination, shearing and heating on foaming properties of egg whites. The egg products marketing activities continue to grow as the industry increases the use of eggs that are further processed out of the shell. The quarterly newsletter Eggsaminer as well as the new electronic newsletter on this subject are going to a variety of food manufacturers and food science editors.
AEB now has a Food Technology Advisory Committee available to give advice for the increased demand for egg products. In 2007 there will be a Food Science Research Fellowship established and all schools with a food science program will be sent information. Also a new magazine supplement Egg Solutions will be available for placement in 2007. A review of all food related magazines, including baking publications was discussed. It is hoped that in 2007, all information regarding the promotion of egg products will be available on disc.
John Howeth from Quietlight Communications outlined the egg products advertising program from AEB. This year they are targeting research and development and marketing first, followed up by purchasing, food manufacturing and processing. Howeth showed three future ads showing how, with the use of eggs, to “make it smooth”, “make it creamy” and “make it light”. He reviewed the food manufacturing and baking publications, and the schedules that will include these ads in 2007. Howeth also asked the committee to consider a benchmark study on this program to be discussed further at the March meeting. AEB’s Christine Bushaway reported on the state support program and the important tie-in with AEB the states have as well as the partnership with the Kristine Lilly healthy information program. There will be a state promotion meeting in Minneapolis in June. It was also reported that the White House egg display is ongoing and encouraged members to get their entries in.
Howard Helmer reported that he has given his consumer presentation at 24 venues so far this year. In addition, he has made presentations to food editors, chefs, food manufacturers, dieticians and culinary schools. At the board meeting, Helmer discussed a new magazine that he will be working with called Hallmark and is published by that company. Also, he will be adding more nutritional news into his future presentations. There are many egg related articles coming up in major magazines for the future. In 2007, Howard will again attend the Bed and Breakfast Convention and work with newspapers in the promotion of eggs.
As part of the Industry and Marketing Development Committee and later at the Board of Director’s meeting, Gene Gregory gave a detailed report on the animal welfare and environmental issues being handled by the United Egg Producers. Attacks are bolder and more aggressive from the activists led by the Humane Society of the United States. UEP is providing every requesting university with information as the activists are targeting the institutions with requests to use only cage-free eggs. HSUS has also attacked retail and foodservice customers and UEP is responding to this. In addition, there is a movement with a petition to the FDA to require all cage-produced eggs to have a label indicating they are produced in cages.
The bottom line with the activists is eliminating all animal agriculture. They are well funded and can chip away at the issue a small bit at a time. Their ultimate goal is “To get rid of the industry.” Gene Gregory is recommending that UEP and AEB partner in a campaign to educate consumers in the advantages of cage and cage-free production while acknowledging freedom of choice. The industry has a good story to tell in terms of animal health, food safety and the environment. Gregory thanked AEB for its support in working with producers on local issues and responding to the negative press about the cage business. About 85% of all layers are committed to the UEP Certified program.
Regarding environmental issues, UEP, remains committed to working with the Environmental Protection Agency on the science-based monitoring study that will result in future regulations. UEP has established an Environmental Scientific Committee Panel. Solutions will be created to establish realistic regulations that producers can work with. Approximately 80% of egg producers have signed the Air Consent Agreement that protects them against any possible litigation and enforcement action for possible past Clean Air Act violations.
Egg Nutrition Center
Dr. Don McNamara reported on Egg Nutrition Center activities. Research from the ENC includes work on weight control, the elderly and benefits from eggs, low carb diets and breakfast and school performance, just to mention a few. Other subjects that are being researched are genetics, choline and breast milk, and epidemiology. Dr. McNamara stated that the research regarding the elderly proved that when eating 1 egg per day there was no increase in cholesterol. Education materials coming from the ENC are now available in Spanish. This also includes the ENC website.
Dr. Hilary Thesmar reported on the progress of the Egg Safety Center which she heads up. They work with the USDA and FDA in preparing rules and regulations pertaining to food safety. The work includes information on the decreasing SI threat and the AI problems that may occur. There is a proactive plan that has been established using a poultry partnership of all entities concerned that is producing education, communication and advertising data to keep the public informed. The ESC website is a wealth of information on the AI situation.
Edelman, the public relations firm of AEB, was represented at the meeting by Allison Madell, who commented on their activities. There have been many press releases on eye health and egg nutrition. They have called on food editors in New York with the egg nutrition story which supports the efforts of AEB’s Linda Braun and Howard Helmer. Next in 2007 will be telling the story of choline benefits for the pregnant woman. They also have been working with WebMD, a leading website source for nutritional, health and fitness information. The Lilly program will continue with many media events on the books, as well.
Tony Alfano reported on the creative television advertising ideas that are being working on. Mind, Mouth, Middle are the key words that create a nutritional rich food idea plus an appetizing dish that is not going to expand the middle. Denise O’Bleness from Grey presented some ideas with three storyboards featuring a possible cartoon character called “Eggman.” The ideas were approved by the board and will be continued to be worked on into 2007. A discussion continued the Grey report stating that TV still delivers the largest consumer audience. The AEB advertising budget has remained constant at about $8 million for the past 10 years. With media inflation, the amount of coverage is decreasing and by the year 2017 it would take $22 million to buy the same space. This situation needs to be discussed in the future.
Foodservice Advisory Council
Dianne Stiebrs, Chair, opened the report from the Consumer Education/Foodservice Committee. Alice Heinze listed the AEB Foodservice Advisory Council and its activities. She also displayed the updated Foodservice Booklet with the latest information on egg nutrition and safety. Also shown and discussed was the Eggsetera newsletter and an article in the Restaurant Hospitality publication on the benefits of eggs. Connie Cahill reported on the egg safety programs that are being conducted by AEB in the nation’s culinary schools. They will continue working with the Culinary Institute of America in the coming year. Steve Soloman, FS Insights, reported on their continuing efforts to promote egg use in fast food restaurants and others that do not feature breakfast menus. They have successes with companies such as Wendy’s, Burger King and Subway. Some are even looking into late night offerings, as well. There are many other foodservice and education efforts by this committee including food manufacturing advertising, the website, and various other printed materials.