Progressive Grocer

AUG 2015

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76 | Progressive Grocer | Ahead of What's Next | August 2015 Refrigerated & Frozen Eggs W hile "Which came frst, the chicken or the egg?" has been pondered over the millennia, the current question in the fresh egg marketplace is just how much egg production practices are afecting sales and consumer preferences. Like the age-old riddle, the latter puzzle is subject to debate. Although hens have laid eggs for human consumption since ancient times and technically came frst, eggs have only been commercially pro- duced over the past several decades, while in the past few years, a surge of interest in cage-free, free-range and organic product has altered the marketplace for eggs in an everything-old-is-new-again kind of way. Indeed, cage-free and free-range eggs have become both buzzwords and points of discussion in many circles. Actor Brad Pitt, for example, made news in July when he called upon a leading club store to carry only cage-free eggs. Tis summer, Minneapolis-based food conglomer- Cracking the Egg Wars Supply and price challenges jostle with rising consumer demand for humanely produced items in this newly re-energized category. By Lynn Petrak ate General Mills revealed its commitment to 100 percent cage-free eggs for its U.S. operations, with a not-yet-specifed deadline. According to S teve Peterson, director of sustainable sourcing , the decision was based on many factors. " We know that people care about where their food comes from and how it was cared for all throughout its journey to the store shelves," he notes. "Our commitment to source 100 percent cage-free eggs for our U.S. business is, in part, in response to consumers' ever-evolving food values, but also because we believe it's the right thing to do." In addition to food companies that use eggs as ingredients, retailers are widening their refrig- erator shelf space for more cage-free, free-range and organic products. Five years ago, the nation's leading grocer, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said that its private label Great Value eggs would be cage-free; t his past May, Walmart asked its food suppliers to follow stricter guidelines for animal welfare; and in July, the mega-retailer re- vealed that it was boosting its ofering of eggs from the San Francisco-based Happy Egg Co., which produces 100 percent free-range eggs and is guided by a hen welfare program. David Wagstaf, COO for the Happy Egg Co., af- frms that expanded distribution of its free-range eggs in Walmart and many other supermarkets around the country mirrors consumers' mindsets. " Our growth is absolutely refecting current consumer trends in fresh eggs," he asserts. "Tere are two important dynam- ics that have been part of this: frst, the recognition of progressive grocery retailers in the U.S. in terms of the growing need for innovation and change in the egg category, and second, the fact that consumers are beginning to further buy into the proposition and importance of consuming humanely raised eggs." Egg industry leaders agree that there's grow- ing consumer awareness of where food comes from and say there's room for a variety of products in the market. "Recognizing that customers place value on having choices in the type of eggs they purchase,

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