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Loo rolls, eggs & COVID-19

We all appreciate that those of us without a ready supply of fresh eggs in the garden initially had to cope with egg shortages, but what has it been like for the egg industry during this pandemic?

Never mind the loo rolls

Well after the panic buying that led to eggs being almost as rare as loo rolls, things settled down by the end of May as most people had by that time satisfied their yearning to bake. But behind the scenes there was considerable work being carried out to ensure eggs reached shelves. As sales of eggs into the food service sector plummeted when restauranteurs closed their doors, extra egg supplies were able to flow into the retail sector helping supermarkets win the battle in keeping shelves stocked. And that was surely good news, right?

Well it would have been if only it was that simple. However, eggs sold into the food service sector are delivered in large stacks of trays, not ideal for a supermarket shelf where we’re used to buying in boxes safely snuggling 6’s and 12’s. As fast as demand grew for eggs, so did egg packaging become scarce compounding supply problems meaning as we learnt to switch from eating out to eating in, we lacked one of the most basic food commodities to bring out our inner Jamie Oliver.

Sales of eggs increased by 2 million per week at Sainsbury’s alone at one point, and you can bet other supermarkets faced the same predicament forcing some to look abroad for a top up to supply chains. Lidl started sourcing dutch barn eggs, ditching the British Lion egg in March – a move very unpopular with UK farmers who immediately appealed to the retail sector to think innovatively.

Wonky eggs?

So, what about thinking innovatively, what about wonky veg and what must surely be the natural progression to think non-uniform eggs. If only supermarkets realised what an additional delight it would be for consumers to open a box of eggs of different size, speckle and shell colour. Note to supermarkets: please revise your outdated self-imposed regulations, you give the consumer no benefit and do the farmer no favour. Anyway who determines what’s ‘right’ in the supermarket board room – he or she clearly doesn’t keep chickens.

Until COVID-19 ‘small’ eggs or ‘seconds’ which might be classified as such simply because the colour of the shell wasn’t quite right were sold into the processed food sector at a lower cost. But now the food sector market has been so badly hit there’s nowhere for the ‘seconds’ to go and it’s time for supermarkets to be brave, try out the British consumer… see how averse, or not, they are to eggs being ever so slightly different.

Tesco took the bold step at the end of May to go where no supermarket has gone for 40 years, in selling white eggs again (apart from a few which sell at Christmas under the saccharine guise of ‘snow eggs’). They went out of fashion in the 80’s as someone somewhere deemed brown eggs were healthier for the nation.

More marketing poppycock.

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