The International Egg Commission (IEC) 2009 Annual Marketing and Production Conference, held in Vancouver, Canada during September, attracted almost 500 attendees. It was the IEC’s largest-ever conference.

Delegates learnt about the latest industry developments, shared best practice ideas and discussed the political and economic issues affecting the sector. Amongst those areas examined were the increasing political and social pressures to ban conventional cages and how to more effectively market eggs.

Alongside the specifics, delegates were also party to a wider view of the world, courtesy of Jim Allworth, director of Royal Bank of Canada Investments.

Mr. Allworth noted that, although the world economy may be improving, it is a slow process. He explained that, with economies growing at a slower rate, businesses would have to become more competitive to maintain market share, warning that, in an economy of slow growth, there would be clear winners and losers, with some businesses not surviving.

Businesses that will survive will be those that have a good service or product offering, accompanied by a clear business plan and the ability to deliver it effectively. Rather than being able to assume that the next quarter will be good simply because the last quarter was, businesses will have to continuously work hard to succeed.

There are still changes in the economy ahead, and while the business environment may be difficult, it will not be impossible, Mr. Allworth believes.

Enriched colony systems

To help members prepare for changes to legislation covering caged birds, the IEC organized a seminar session on new enriched colony egg production systems. The topic is particularly pressing for producers with Germany banning conventional cages in 2009, the European Union in 2012 and California in 2015.

Delegates learnt that the latest research has shown that the production results using enriched colony systems are comparable to conventional cages, with possible improvements in mortality rates and feed conversion.

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There was a feeling of confidence that enriched colonies would comply with animal welfare guidelines, including those in California. However, the latest figures show that in Europe in 2008, 278 million hens were in cage systems, but that only 20 million, or only 7 percent, of these were in enriched cages. Experts believe that it will be almost impossible to move the remaining 250 million hens to new cages in the time remaining before the legislation comes into force.

Tasting with the eyes

Marketing expert Dr Jan-Benedict Steenkamp stressed to delegates the importance of branding their products, and urged a more effective use of packaging, including the use of clear product statements that would allow differentiation from the competition.

He told delegates that consumers “taste with their eyes”, and that although two eggs may taste the same, consumers make purchasing decisions based on brand image.

In the highly competitive egg industry, it is particularly important to clearly present a product’s selling features to the consumer. This may include emphasizing that eggs are free-range, organic, or rich in Omega 3. Brands need to be capitalized on, and consumers given an obvious reason to choose their product.

Marketing

In a dedicated marketing seminar, details of how Egg Farmers of Canada now approaches the market were shared. Canada’s approach to marketing eggs has been highly successful following a reassessment of approach, that resulted in a better understanding of consumer attitudes, more targeted campaigns, adopting a healthy energy strategy and tailoring campaigns to include regional variation.

While on the one hand, consumers respond to traditional imagery and vocabulary, on the other, the industry needs to adopt the most modern marketing methods. These could include using the internet, as well as working with retailers to create joint marketing initiatives.

The next IEC conference will be held in Paris on April 11-13 2010.