Pandemic sees rise in retail demand for medium eggs

Egg demand has led retailers to draw on the surplus of medium eggs from the closure of the hospitality sector
Egg demand has led retailers to draw on the surplus of medium eggs from the closure of the hospitality sector

Increased demand for eggs as a result of the pandemic has led retailers to sell more medium and mixed weight packs.

The overall number of eggs sold grew by nearly 18% in the year up until February, according to the latest retail data from Kantar.

Whilst this growth was seen across all sizes, the data shows that it was not felt evenly, with mediums seeing by far the strongest increase in the volume of egg sold (26%), followed by mixed weights (18%).

Although large and extra-large eggs still saw unprecedented levels of growth (of 14% and 13% respectively), the boost in demand for medium and mixed at retail level stands out.

Increased demand for egg since the start of the pandemic has led retailers to draw on the surplus of medium egg that has been created by the closure of the food service and hospitality sectors.

Scott Lapthorne, who runs the Cornish packing station Newlands Farm Eggs, explained why he believes more customers have turned to mediums since the first lockdown in March last year.

“Before lockdown we were seeing consumers wanting more large eggs, but when the pandemic first hit it caused panic buying and shortfalls in egg very quickly, and so naturally people just wanted to get their hands on eggs, irrespective of what size they were.

"However, now that restrictions are set to begin easing, consumers are wanting bigger eggs, so that fascination with large over medium is still there.”

He also offered some insight into the reasons behind consumer preference for large eggs.

“We are not sure exactly why this is, sometimes it could be things like cookbooks saying you need to use a large egg, but also the gap between medium and large at retail level is not big enough.

"This means consumers trade up to large for very little extra cost, in the belief that they are getting better value for money.”

Of the major retailers, supermarket chain Morrisons has seen the most growth in mediums over the last year.

Richard Pearson, Head of Agriculture at Chippindale Foods, who supply Morrisons, said they had made changes which capitalised on the supply of medium eggs.

“We have brought in new initiatives such as ‘Chuckle Eggs’, which are solely a medium egg product, to utilise any surplus medium egg production in our Morrisons stores.

"We encourage large egg production but keep the differential between what we pay our producers for large and medium eggs low, so that we are not penalising our producers for doing what is right for their hens.”

Sales of mixed weight packs also took off in supermarkets over the last year as retailers used them as a tool to make the most of the surplus of small and medium eggs.

Tom Willings, of free range egg firm Stonegate, said that one of their customers had recently added a mixed weight pack to their range.

“The retailer has looked to respond to the surplus of mediums in the market by adding to their range," he added.

"This will help to absorb some of that greater supply and hopefully increase the total number of eggs they sell.

“Consumers do not always realise the tremendous value that there is in mixed weight packs.

"There can often be considerable additional weight on top of the minimum net weight specified on the box, so there can be quite a lot to gain for the customer.”