Thursday, September 21, 2023

Consumer insight: Our competitive advantage in 2022

By Emily Metz American Egg Board

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CHICAGO — As we sprint to the finish line of yet another holiday egg sales season in the shadow of COVID-19, I know there is some trepidation. While volume sales of shell eggs at retail are tracking closely with pre-pandemic 2019, we’re still short of where we might expect to be. And our egg products business has only begun the slow march to recovery in tandem with the restaurant industry.

But as we look ahead to the promise of a new year, we have good reason to be bullish about the prospects for eggs in 2022.

Yes, these are challenging times. The world continues to change rapidly, and the consumer has become something of a moving target. But we’re becoming increasingly equipped to master these conditions. I’m particularly excited about investments in consumer insights that are coming to fruition, which will enable the egg industry to market and communicate more precisely and effectively. I believe strongly that these insights will constitute an important competitive advantage with demonstrable impact.

Presently, we are competing not so much with other products as we are with clutter, noise and distraction, short attention spans, the speed of evolving consumer needs and priorities, and, in cases, misinformation. To break through requires laser focus on what matters to consumers, meeting them where they are and ensuring they feel great about choosing eggs. Under these circumstances, the strategic goal we set a year ago to understand the consumer better than anyone could not be more important, and I am pleased to share just a couple of examples of the progress we’re making toward that end.

Perfecting the nutrition message

We know that nutrition is one of the most important demand drivers for eggs, so this year we undertook a four-phased approach to ensure that we have the right focus and messages to increase purchase intent. This included an initial nutrition landscape assessment, a consumer audience survey and segmentation, and nutrition benefit-ranking research. Based on these inputs, we were able to workshop a narrative and messaging. The team is now in phase three of this project: qualitative and quantitative message testing.

While this is a work in progress, you might be interested in some important foundational insights from the work:

  • A gap exists between what consumers claim to know and what they actually know about egg nutrients. (Millennials claim to be the most informed, but their actual knowledge is the lowest of any group.)
  • Consumers are much more motivated by understanding the nutritional benefit than the actual nutrient in eggs.
  • Protein is the most compelling nutrient to consumers, while cholesterol perceptions are the biggest barrier to consumption.
  • Consumers are looking for simple, convenient ways to make nutritional improvements. Recipes and cooking ideas keep eggs top of mind.

We also uncovered which specific messages resonate with different audiences:

  • Millennials respond positively to workout-related messaging, presumably due to the link to protein.
  • Moms, including expectant moms, prefer messages focused on nutritional benefits for kids.
  • Aging consumers are most responsive to cholesterol-related messaging.

Taken together, these insights are proving incredibly useful to the team as we develop a tailored approach to nutrition that speaks loudly and directly to key audiences with high probability of impact at the retail shelf.

The specific communications we’ve created based on this work are now undergoing consumer dial testing and will be further refined. We expect to share those final messages with producers and our state association partners this quarter, ahead of the 2022 health and wellness season where they may be put to optimal use.

A consumer-centric approach to the production story

This year, our communications team was charged with developing an insights-based strategy for telling the egg production story. We know that consumer perceptions of egg farmers and production practices matter at the shelf, but we needed to understand exactly where to focus to maximize purchase intent. The story that we in agriculture want to tell is not always the story that the consumer needs to make a confident purchase decision, so we made it our task to understand the job we needed to do from the consumer’s point of view.

A nationally representative consumer survey helped us understand what consumers know about on-farm production and egg labels, what more they want to know and what myths they believe to be true, as well as identify the topics most likely to drive positive perception of egg production and purchase/consumption of eggs.

Key findings include:

  • Consumer knowledge is generally low, the landscape is rife with confusion and people are hungry for information, especially around how egg pricing works; hormones and antibiotics; housing/labels and the differences between white and brown eggs.
  • Topics that impact perceived human health, such as hormones, antibiotics and GMOs, are most likely to impact purchase decisions and are often misunderstood.
  • Hen health and welfare is the secondary driver of purchase, and the consumer is confused about labels like cage-free, free-range, certified humane and animal-welfare approved.
  • Our research also uncovered a direct correlation between positive perceptions of egg farmers and purchase intent.

Following the survey, we conducted a deeper dive analysis of traditional and social media and search behavior around the topics with the most impact, which led to a three-tiered approach to educating the consumer:

  1. Open with human health and dispel key misconceptions.
  2. Address labeling confusion and provide clear, transparent information about housing systems.
  3. Conclude the journey with education about farmer social responsibility efforts.

The team is now embarking on a final phase to determine how best to deliver the right level of information, especially related to sensitive issues and tradeoffs around housing systems, based on the needs of three key consumer segments.

Upon completion of this research, we plan to begin production on a new section of the Incredible Egg website and communications collateral including infographics, FAQs and video suited to social media, followed by media outreach and an educational campaign.

And on a parallel track, we will build out a program targeting channel partners—retailers, foodservice and CPG—to educate them, address their needs and provide the information and resources for them to educate their customers. All of this is slated for launch in the first half of 2022.

Putting the consumer at the heart of all we do

Circumstances shift, markets fluctuate and times changes, but at the end of the day, the consumer always holds the key to our success. The projects I’ve described are but two examples among many in a much broader initiative at the AEB to thoroughly understand the consumer and to ensure that this deep knowledge is baked into everything we do, across channels.

We fully expect that these investments will deliver against the AEB’s mission to increase demand for eggs and egg products in 2022 and beyond, and we will objectively measure the extent to which we’re successful and report those data back to the industry. More to come!

As always, I welcome your questions and thoughts and appreciate your continued support and enthusiasm for our shared mission. Wishing everyone safe and happy holidays and an incredible new year!


Emily Metz is president and CEO of the American Egg Board with offices in Chicago, Ill. She can be reached by e-mail at

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