Good marketing – and understanding shoppers’ minds – can often seem like a dark art. Fortunately the International Egg Commission’s business conference, held in April, in Monte Carlo, sheds some light on best practice.
If a customer picks up a product they are more likely to buy it. Ice cream tastes more eggy if the sound of chickens clucking is played while people eat it. Consumers in developed countries are shunning meat in favour of plant proteins.
Two eminent professors in the field of food business offered some insights. The first was Professor David Hughes, from Imperial College London, who majored on how millennials are rewriting the rule book on conventional dining.
Across the world, consumption of meat protein is growing at a rate of about 2%, he explained, but in most western countries it is declining. Increasingly there is focus on meals where a cut of beef, for example, is not central to the dish – or even included.
Instead, so-called “ancient grains” like quinoa, or dairy-based proteins take an important place in the diet, and the usual patterns of eating breakfast, lunch and dinner are confounded by continual snacking.
And for the evidence this trend is taking place, look no further than major acquisitions by agri-food giants, Prof Hughes explained. Last year Monde Nissin (which turned over US$ 4.6bn in 2015/16) bought meat substitute firm Quorn, Danone (turnover US$ 24.44bn in 2015) bought the almond milk brand Alpro. Hampton Creek, which makes an egg-free mayonnaise substitute has backing from the world’s richest man, Bill Gates.
So there are challenges ahead. But eggs, perceived as a natural untainted product, should fare well. “I think you need to capitalise on eggs’ natural simple attributes, that are in tune with millennial consumer values. They want simplicity.”
In order to do so, suggested Prof Hughes, more can be done to stimulate shoppers. He has famously described egg displays as boring, and suggested emerging Asia was doing a far better job of making eggs as central to supermarkets as the fish counter or bakery.
One way in which they may capture more shoppers’ imaginations is by incorporating senses beyond sight into branding, according to Oxford University’s Professor Charles Spence. “By engaging more senses at the point of purchase or at the point of consumption or beyond you will create more memorable experiences that appeal to people both rationally and emotionally.”
Eggs marketers can do more to encourage people to buy – such as making boxes more pleasant to the touch. “Often package and product meet together for the first time in the supermarket,” according to Prof Spence. This could be a mistake, as things like contrast, transparency of packs and even the sound of chickens in the egg aisle may all help to turn browsers into buyers.