Why doesn�t SA eat eggs?

SA�s egg consumption lags far behind other countries � what SA consumes in a year, China eats in a day. The Southern African Poultry Association (SAPA) has now embarked on an extensive marketing campaign to encourage higher income groups to eat more eggs.

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SA’s egg consumption lags far behind other countries – what SA consumes in a year, China eats in a day. The Southern African Poultry Association (SAPA) has now embarked on an extensive marketing campaign to encourage higher income groups to eat more eggs. Wilma den Hartigh finds out more.

Steak, egg and chips is a firm lunchtime favourite for many South Africans – or is it? Considering the average annual egg consumption in SA is only 137 per person, including egg products, it appears eggs aren’t that popular. Kevin Lovell, CEO of the Southern African Poultry Association (SAPA), says it’s crucial that egg producers market their product aggressively. “Farmers must create more demand,” he says. “For many years, the egg industry was bigger than the chicken meat industry. Now the two have switched places.” To increase the reach of its marketing strategy, the egg industry wants to replace voluntary levies with a statutory one. “We can then broaden our marketing, and the industry would be better served,” Lovell says. He explains that 2007 was a very positive year for the industry, with year-on-year growth of some 11% and over the last two years it has been at 23%. But he feels there’s still a long way to go.

“Egg farmers have a good product and we have to get more people to eat it,” says Kevin. South Africa is very low on the world scale of egg consumption. In comparison, China eats about 300 eggs per person a year. “We’re very happy that 6,5 billion eggs are eaten in South Africa yearly, but that’s one day’s consumption in China,” says Kevin. “Although South Africa doesn’t have China’s population, it can do better.” Willie Maree, chairperson of the Egg Organisation, points out that in countries such as Mexico, annual per person egg consumption is almost 350 eggs. Some 50% of this is in egg products, but it does amount to roughly one egg a day per person. The ‘Magic’ campaign The Eggs are Magic generic marketing campaign, aimed mainly at urban and peri-urban areas, analysed why South Africans don’t eat eggs and what the industry can do to up sales and consumption. Maree says the international example proves that a generic campaign can work. In Europe and other countries such as New Zealand and Australia, generic campaigns managed to increase egg consumption.

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Kevin says addressing perceptions of eggs among consumers is the best way to increase consumption. “Egg consumption is all about religious, cultural and economic habits. Eggs are the cheapest and most concentrated form of protein available, but if someone can’t afford a steak they will rather buy chicken – not eggs. The perception is that a higher disposable income means one must consume more meat products.” SAPA’s research revealed that the higher income groups (LSM 7-10) still hold the outdated view that eggs contain cholesterol. explains this perception was created by medical practitioners many years ago and taught at schools. “This is the belief of the average housewife in South Africa,” he says. Part of the campaign specifically wants to dispel these myths and provide nutritional information to the higher income groups. The campaign is also targeting the lower income groups (LSM 4 to 6). Willie says that in these groups, eggs aren’t necessarily a top priority when purchasing a product with good nutritional value. Kevin explains research found that egg consumption can be increased in all the income groups, but the lower income groups have the potential for the biggest growth. “We want to inform this group of the convenience, versatility, affordability and health benefits of eggs,” he says. Marketing in the lower income groups is focused on adverts on taxis, shows at taxi ranks, billboard adverts, truck signage and promotional activities at shopping centres frequented by the lower income groups.

Nearly three years after its launch, the “Eggs are Magic” campaign is already showing great success in this group. Marketing will also be extended to corporate clothing for employees in the egg industry. “This will strengthen the brand,” says Kevin. This year the campaign will target schools to promote eggs through educational activities and characters the children can identify with. “Kids go home and influence their moms to buy eggs. The “Eggs are Magic” logo will soon be on egg packaging so that we can access all the other income groups,” he explained. Growing demand Farmers have also responded to the campaign. “Eggs are selling well. The tricky thing is that when demand starts to increase, farmers have to match it with growth in production,” says Kevin. He’s confident producers can do this. “The egg industry is worth R4 million a year at farmer level. We should aim at R10 million.” Lovell is certain that through the campaign, egg consumption can double in South Africa. “Here we have an inexpensive, healthy and versatile product. More chicken per person is eaten in South Africa than any other animal protein source, so the possibilities with eggs are huge. We haven’t touched the surface yet.” Contact SAPA on (011) 795 2051/2 or e-mail [email protected]