The summer meeting of the American Egg Board (AEB) took place in Chicago on July 12 and 13 at the Westin O’Hare. As is normal for these meetings, great many details were given on how the AEB is helping promote egg consumption in the US. For example, Linda Braun of the Consumer Education/Foodservice Committee reported that from January through June of 2006 in consumer magazines, there were 94 egg/egg recipe features that ran in 40 publications, reaching a circulation of at least 94 million readers. Had this been purchased advertising space, it would have cost 22.5 million dollars!

Everyone at the meeting received a $6 bill, which piqued everyone’s curiosity. It was obviously not a real bill, but rather demonstrated the results from a recent econometrics study done at Cornell University that showed that for every dollar spent on AEB advertising from 2000-2005, egg producers received a return on investment of $6.

Among the many important and interesting reports given at this meeting, two especially stood out. One concerned a consumer survey, and the other reported the results of a research study on egg case space.

Dawn Marie Kerper, Vice President of Grey Worldwide, reported the results of the consumer survey involving 1,000 people over 18 years old, which was done by random selection (covering different age, gender and other demographic groups) and was done online for the first time. (This study is done normally about every two years.) This year’s survey had some interesting results that had not been seen before.

Women ages 25-54 (AEB’s target audience) are well educated on food and health issues, but a bit confused by conflicting info, (since there’s a lot of it out there). In general, however, they’re pretty savvy about their health.

Never before had the survey asked if consumers thought that eggs were good for them, and an overwhelming 82% said they were. People are interested in foods that are naturally nutritional: Foods that nothing’s been added to (nutraceuticals) or that something bad has been taken out of.

Consumers said they want food that’s naturally good for them: which was a recurring theme seen throughout the media study.

The first part of the survey did not focus on eggs, but on food and nutrition in general, which showed that consumers are aware that they can affect their health by what they eat. They are also very aware about good and bad cholesterol, and good and bad blood cholesterol.

Other than cost, what influences consumers most in their purchase of food?

- Food that is naturally high in nutrients (this is new).

- Then it’s important to look at specific nutrients in food: low in fat, low in transfatty acids, sugar (people are becoming more concerned about this), then protein, sodium, cholesterol …

Some new ideas came up that hadn’t been seen before on these surveys: Concerns about food being raised without hormones and antibiotics and an interest in organic and cage-free products. While those items were at the bottom of the list, 31% of the respondents were interested in this, which means it’s something worth watching, even though hormones are not used in layer production.

The survey asked about negative aspects of eggs and the main response was to not eat raw eggs in salads or beverages, which is something that the egg industry itself has been saying for some time now. Another negative aspect was that steroids are used in egg production (which is not the case).

On the cholesterol issue, 25% said that eggs are too high in cholesterol, but this number has gone down significantly from the 44% who thought that in 1999. People are still concerned about cholesterol, but in considerably lower numbers than in the past.

An interesting set of questions was asked that had to do with the respondent’s awareness of certain egg facts. If the fact were true, would it then motivate them to eat eggs? That eggs contain the highest quality food protein was known by 30% of the respondents, and 20% knew that eggs contain all the essential amino acids your body can’t make on its own. However, 64% of the respondents said that these facts would be very motivating to them in consuming eggs.

The conclusions of this research are that the positive opinion of eggs continues to grow (82%), while there are still some lingering issues like cholesterol, which are not specifically related to eggs.

The greatest opportunity seen by the survey is that consumers need to be re-educated on why eggs are good for them.

The other important report included the results of the Room for Improvement - Making the Space for Eggs study. Jim Wisner of Wisner Marketing did the study for AEB and reported the results (which will be greatly abbreviated here, since the full report has recently been distributed to the industry.) Thirty-five stores from five different supermarket chains across the country were studied. Egg case sales data were collected, filed research was done and consumers and dairy case managers were interviewed.

The basic questions were: Is this the most important space? Do eggs really get the space they deserve?

The results were: Eggs do not get their fair share of space, more space does create more sales and specialty eggs present a big opportunity.

Shell eggs accounted for 4.6% of total dairy case space, but generated 8.6% of dairy case profit. The new study suggests that by adding egg space, you increase sales and at an increasing rate.

There were some interesting comparisons found with other items in the dairy case. Although eggs had the fewest items in the case, they were:

- #2 in sales per square foot (milk is #1)

- #2 in gross profit per square foot (milk is #1)

- #2 in percent of gross profits (cream is #1)

- #1 in net profits per square foot

In other words, the egg category wins.

The final recommendation is that dairy cases need more space, specifically, that four more feet of space would benefit both the retailer and the egg producer.