By courtesy of DSM
Survey provides room for a reevaluation of the egg market and opens the discussion about the importance of producers differentiating their product.
I would like to start by providing a brief report of what happened to me this week and made me very happy. The restaurant of the company where I work serves some 2,400 meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner). And I was very pleased to find a large display on one of the walls: “2007 with a new face – Smart tips – Egg, food for a balanced and varied diet”, a statement followed by a list with some of the many qualities of eggs signed by a nutritionist.
This is an effective indicator that times are changing and that we should make good use of this opportunity.
Considered as a source of excessive cholesterol, eggs were always seen as villains by people who wanted to adopt a healthy diet. The myths and truths surrounding eggs are being widely discussed in the media today as a result of new scientific studies on the subject, as recently seen in Brazil. This change in the way eggs are viewed opens the pathway to a new era for the Brazilian egg production.
At this time, when eggs are receiving the attention they deserve, the Brazilian poultry industry is trying to create a fund to obtain the necessary resources for a national marketing campaign to increase the per capita consumption.
According to UBA (Union of the Brazilian Poultry Industry), each Brazilian consumes an average of 141 units per year, a very low figure when compared to countries as Mexico, Japan, US and many others.
With the possibility of an increase in egg consumption, competition will become fierce and producers will be aware of the need to differentiate their product.
An important step has already been made with the objective of ensuring the success of Brazilian egg producers.
The objective of the present survey was to identify the preference of egg consumers, and can be used as a tool by producers, mainly to review the way products are exhibited in the points of sale, and also to create ways to build customers loyalty.
The survey – The qualitative study was conducted in two units of two of the main supermarket chains of São Paulo with 160 consumers. The questionnaire had both open and closed questions and the respondents profile (Table 1) was made up by women, housewives, divided into four age groups (21-30, 31-40, 41-50 and 50 years or older).
Analyzing Table 1, we can see that the average egg consumption detected by the survey – 39 units per family with 3.3 members each – confirms the data provided by UBA. It also shows that 81% of the respondents buy eggs in the supermarket and 52% never have eggs for breakfast, demonstrating that this is an important unexplored market niche.
In the first open question (Table 2), consumers were asked what would be a high quality egg in their opinion, and answers to open questions were grouped by similarity to be analyzed. For most respondents, 37%, a high quality egg is an egg with well-pigmented yolk.
In the analysis of the 10 items that were mentioned more often, we will see that 6 refer to external attributes (size, cleanliness, integrity, etc.) and are, in general, well known by all producers, who consider these attributes as mandatory. The internal attributes were very well evaluated but are not known by consumers. In the next question (Table 3), consumers were asked to evaluate 10 attributes in an induced way, assigning weights from 1 to 4 based on their importance (1 = not important at all, 4 = very important). Shell integrity was considered to be very important by 100% of the respondents. These data confirm the previous question, related to external attributes and, in this case, the study brings a positive contribution as it provides information that were not known by the producers. As an example, the scores assigned by the housewives to yolk consistency and color were 3.8 and 3.5, respectively. In the next question, we used three of the 10 attributes of the previous question (shell color, egg size and yolk color) and asked the respondents about their preferences (Tables 4, 5 and 6). A preference very similar to that related to shell color was found in these questions, 45% of respondents preferring white shells and 38.2% brown and red shells. As to egg size, the data clearly shows a 77.6% preference for larger eggs (data from jumbo plus large eggs). Consumers were very emphatic about the importance attributed to yolk color – 68.1% answered that they prefer yolks with a stronger or darker color. If we also include the respondents that prefer a very yellow yolk, we get very close to 70%.
Table 7 shows that respondents associate the color of the egg shell with the yolk color, which is not correct, but is related to free-range eggs and eggs produced in poultry farms. The most important result obtained with this question is that producers should use the package to provide information about their product, as 18% of consumers stated that there are no elements at the time of egg purchase to let them know what is the yolk color of the eggs they are taking home. That is, the consumer will only have information about the attribute that received the best evaluation in this survey when the egg is opened.
In the next question, four different levels of yolk color were presented to the housewives. As in the photo, yolk number 1 has the color of approximately 98% of eggs marketed today in Brazil (Figure 1). Or, in other words, the eggs that are effectively available to consumers. Results are shown in Table 8.
This result confirms that the preference for more pigmented yolks is a worldwide trend (Figure 2). In general, when several yolk colors are presented, consumers will choose the more pigmented option.
The most important information obtained by analyzing the data in Table 8 is that if we add the respondents that chose yolks with colors 10, 12 and 14, we will conclude that 80% of all consumers prefer eggs with yolk pigmentation characteristics that are different from what is found in the market place.
Table 9 shows that 70% of consumers state that it is important to find eggs with the yolk color that they prefer.
After choosing the yolk, respondents were asked about the reasons for their choice.
The objective was to know what that yolk brought to the consumer’s mind and the results presented in Table 10 are quite surprising. The most frequent answer is that the yolk with a richer color (or less light) seems to be more nutritious, stronger and healthier, with more nutrients, more vitamins and proteins. On the other hand, none of the respondents that chose yolk 1 said that it seemed to be healthier, which is quite significant. It should be stressed that the positive attributes are not always related to the strong color yolks, with a single exception – cholesterol that was only mentioned by 4.4% of the respondents.
When asked about looking for some specific brand, 87% of the respondents answer was no (Table 11), stressing a point that does not seem to be new for most. However, it seems to me that this is one of the important opportunities revealed by the survey, as is the yolk color. Producers can view this in a pessimistic way and leave it as it is, or see this as an excellent opportunity to work their brand in a huge market as this is, marketing 26 billion eggs per year.
When the data from Table 12 is analyzed together with the data from Table 11, we are able to identify a huge market opportunity if we consider that by creating a brand it is possible to obtain costumers loyalty – 89.4% respondents answered that they would buy on a regular basis in the same place if eggs with the expected quality would be available.
Finally, Tables 13 and 14 bring a summary of the last two questions. The answer to the question about what respondents are used to pay for a dozen eggs (Table 13) was R$ 2.33, very close to what is charged by supermarkets. In the last question, respondents were asked what would be the maximum price they were willing to pay for quality eggs (Table 14). And the consumers stated that they are willing to pay up to R$ 2.92, or 25% more.
These were the main issues raised in this survey. And I know that there is still a lot to be done in the egg industry. But we have to consider that important steps have been taken and, in a short period of time, significant changes will occur. We have to be prepared for them and even anticipate the next steps.
I hope that the present survey will be able to help the egg industry to find new business opportunities, as we know that it is always possible to improve our market. And all we have to do is to use the information provided by consumers. Before taking action, however, we have to answer the following question: Where does each of us want to be 10 years from now?