Noble Foods has given the organic egg sector a boost with the launch of an organic version of its happy egg brand.
The egg market has proven stubbornly difficult for the organic movement. A recent market report by the Soil Association showed that whilst the organic market overall had grown by 2.8 per cent in 2013, organic egg sales were down by 2.2 per cent.
But the launch of happy egg organic - on sale initially in Asda in April, with Tesco and Morrisons following in May - has been seen as a positive step by the Soil Association, which has in the past complained that organic egg sales have been hit by a shortage of shelf space in the leading supermarkets. Of the new launch by Noble, Soil Association trade director Finn Cottle said, "Soil Association welcomes the launch of happy egg organic and predicts that it will help boost the sales of the organic egg sector."
She said, "During the last few years, the availability and accessibility of organic eggs
has been very poor, with the discontinuation of many lines and less fixture space in supermarkets. This has caused many customers to stop buying. We are hopeful that happy egg organic will be widely available in supermarkets, acting as a clear signpost for the organic choice on shelf, while creating customer loyalty once again."
The happy egg brand was launched in 2009, supported by a marketing campaign that has helped to establish it as the leading free range egg brand in the United Kingdom. Noble said in its last annual report that the brand had an annualised retail value of nearly £75 million. The company announced recently that it had now sold more than one million dozen happy eggs
in America, following the launch of the brand across the Atlantic.
On the decision to extend the happy egg brand into the organic sector, Rob Newell, head of brands at the happy egg co, said, “We already know from years of experience that happier hens lay tastier eggs
and it follows that happier hens fed organically lay tastier organic eggs
so this is a natural progression for our brand. We are very excited to be able to offer happy egg organic to consumers who are looking for an organic option. The organic market has witnessed recent growth, providing the perfect opportunity to extend into this area. The introduction of happy egg organic puts us in a really strong position to take full advantage of this opportunity for the future growth of our brand.”
Finn Cottle said that the Soil Association saw the launch as a positive step in the longer term recovery of the sales of organic eggs. "During 2013, there were shortages reported in some of the major supermarkets, with a number of farmers choosing to leave the sector," she said. "However the situation has improved in 2014. This is reflected in Nielsen market data, which is showing only a slight value decline of -0.4 per cent for 52 weeks to March 1 2014.
The data is more encouraging for the 4 and 12 week periods at +12.1 per cent and +8.9 per cent respectively," she said. "This launch will help to rebuild confidence within the supply side and encourage farmers to re-evaluate the organic option."
The Soil Association's market report on 2013 said that the organic egg sector was in need of a confidence boost. It said that a survey conducted by the Organic Research Centre in autumn 2013 found that, although there was a core of farmers who were committed to organic production for the long term in principle, and more producers than not who envisaged expanding production in the next two years, many questioned whether farm gate prices were good enough for their businesses to remain viable. "Significant numbers of pig, poultry and egg producers have already left organic production in the past two years. A serious injection of producer confidence is now needed, in the shape of increased commitment from retailers and policy makers, if market growth with a healthy balance between supply and demand is to be achieved," said the report. It warned that imports of organic eggs
could be sucked into the country unless the lack of producer confidence in the UK was addressed.
Happy egg organic is being promoted as eggs
from hens that are fed an organic diet "free from GMOs, pesticides and other additives and graze on organic land. As with all happy egg hens, the ‘girls’ that produce organic eggs
have a full, enriched, and happy life on farms which boast the highest possible standards of animal welfare." A press release announcing the launch said, "All happy egg farmers producing both free range and organic free range uphold the happy egg co’s total commitment to ensuring its birds have an unrivalled quality of life."
Noble says that the new organic line will be produced on three of the 100 happy egg farms. The eggs
will be available in packs of six, costing about £2.20.