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Shoppers shell out on 6bn eggs as flexitarians help drive UK revival | Food


Eggs are making a comeback in the UK, with retail sales enjoying their 13th consecutive year of growth as consumers recognise the affordability and versatility of a once vilified staple.

Supermarkets are reporting healthy sales thanks to the popularity of vegetarian and flexitarian diets, while new industry figures from the market research company Kantar reveal that British shoppers bought 6bn eggs last year.

Retail sales were up 3%-4% last year in their 13th year of consecutive growth, the equivalent of 220m more eggs purchased than in 2018, the data shows.

The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) suggests that the increase in sales may be correlated with a rise in the number of people adopting flexitarian diets – consuming more plant-based meals without completely eliminating meat – and looking for more meat-free alternatives. Dietary trends popularised by celebrities such as Joe Wicks have also helped to reinvigorate egg sales.

The spike in egg consumption may also partly have been prompted by a change in advice from the Food Standards Agency in 2017, almost 30 years after the UK salmonella crisis, stating that pregnant women, babies and elderly people could safely eat runny or even raw eggs. In the past, Britons have also fretted about eating too many eggs because of fears that they could raise cholesterol and cause heart disease.

The Kantar data reveals that millennial shoppers are driving sales as the group most likely to eat eggs, consuming an average of 249 eggs per household in 2019 – almost two-thirds more than in 2008. That compares with 199 across the population. The popularity of brunch and egg-based dishes such as shakshouka, in addition to staples like scrambled and poached eggs, has also helped to lift sales, supermarkets say.

A spokeswoman for Waitrose said: “Eggs are one of the most versatile ingredients we use in cooking, used in everything from bakes to breakfast. It may have been a dozen years since we went fully free range across all of our eggs, but our customers still love them, as sales prove – up 9% versus last year.

“With brunch becoming one of the most popular meals over the last couple of years and eggs being a staple item, we’ve seen sales of sourdough, the bread favoured for brunch by millennials, increase by 30% too.”

Andy Neal, an egg buyer for the Co-op, said: “Co-op brand eggs have had a cracking start to the year, with sales across our organic range up 13% so far in 2020, and up 2.5% for half a dozen medium free range.

“Eggs represent a great-value, versatile and protein-packed meal option for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and their ongoing success is certainly being driven by the rise of flexitarian eaters and the popularity of seasonal events like Pancake Day.”

A BEIC spokesperson said: “Eggs are one of nature’s most nutrient-dense foods and fit into many diets and lifestyles. You’d be hard pressed to find a food that contains such an ideal mixture of nutrients. Along with high-quality protein, eggs are also naturally rich in vitamin D, B2 [riboflavin], vitamin B12, iodine, selenium and other essential dietary vitamins and minerals.”



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