Adapting in an Evolving (Egg) Market

ANALYSIS - Growing economic, market and regulatory pressures are causing all businesses to change, according to one of the UK's leading egg processors. Jackie Linden, senior editor of ThePoultrySite, reports on the likely future developments.
calendar icon 30 November 2011
clock icon 5 minute read

In these times of global uncertainty and change, Sara Gibbins – Commercial Director of egg processing company, Manton's – offered a perspective from the egg processing sector. She was addressing the annual meeting of the British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA) at the National Agricultural Centre last month.

Ms Gibbins gave an overview of the UK industry in relation to the EU and global markets, and then urged the audience of the top producers and other egg industry leaders to address the need to change and adapt to meet the needs of the evolving market.

There has been massive growth in the egg processing sector over the last 10 to 15 years, said Ms Gibbins, with many new brands and an ever wider variety of products; ready-made mayonnaise is now available from several companies and a variety of flavours, for example. Egg products are also ingredients in a great many processed foods, including those that might not spring to mind immediately, such as Quorn, which contains egg albumen.

The egg processing industry has adapted its product range to meet these changing requirements of food processors, she said. The first company to switch to using only free-range egg products only was a biscuit manufacturer, following in 2000 to 2002 by two leading retailers.

The European Market for Eggs and Egg Products

European countries are still dominating egg imports and exports around the world, said Ms Gibbins. European production is estimated to be more than 1.5 million metric tons a year of egg products.

France leads the EU league table in terms of shell egg production, followed by Italy and Spain. with the UK in 6th place.

Among EU member states, the Netherlands produces 40 per cent of all exported liquid egg products, of which Germany imports the greatest volume. Although a smaller volume, the Dutch are also the Union's leading exporters of dried egg products, and the UK is the top importer.

Top 10 shell egg producers in EU (2010)
Ranking Country Production (tonnes)
1 France 875,380
2 Italy 807,907
3 Spain 768,177
4 Poland 645,000
5 The Netherlands 633,000
6 UK 595,366
7 Germany 590,000
8 Romania 335,000
9 Czech Republic 122,126
10 Belgium 173,000

EU trade in liquid egg products (2010)
Ranking Country Production (tonnes) % of EU total
Top 5 exporting countries
1 The Netherlands 93,811 40
2 France 24,933 11
3 Spain 23,157 10
4 Germany 13,540 6
5 Poland 11,517 5
Top 5 importing countries
1 Germany 53,810 23
2 France 26,505 12
3 UK 25,216 11
4 Belgium 21,110 9
5 Denmark 11,255 5

EU trade in dried egg products
Ranking Country Production (tonnes) % of EU total
Top 5 exporting countries
1 The Netherlands 7,186 13
2 France 6,694 12
3 Germany 4,025 7
4 Belgium 3,060 5
5 Italy 2,122 4
Top 5 importing countries
1 UK 8,094 14
2 Denmark 4,553 8
3 Germany 4,525 8
4 France 1,894 3
5 Austria 1,871 3

Turning to trade with third countries, Ms Gibbins said that imports of egg products decreased by 58 per cent from January to June this year as EU egg powders are much cheaper than third-country imports. As stocks in Europe have been high, the need for imports was low. Most imports were from other EU countries, as well as Argentina, the US and India.

For egg products, Europe accounts for more than two-thirds of all global trade. Global exports remain competitive and were 61 per cent higher for January to May this year than the same period of 2010. Main export destinations are Japan, Switzerland, Angola and the United Arab Emirates. Exports to Japan have increased 38 per cent with noticeable increases also to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Norway and Thailand.

According to data from IntraStat, the UK has imported egg products to a value of £110 million: dried egg, £37 million; liquid egg,£22.5 million; boiled eggs, £7.5 million and shell eggs, £33 million.

Top 10 EU countries with free-range hens producing shell eggs
Ranking Country Hens (millions)
1 UK 16.2
2 France 7.3
3 Germany 6.7
4 The Netherlands 5.0
5 Czech Republic 4.7
6 Austria 1.6
7 Poland 1.5
8 Switzerland 1.5
9 Portugal 1.0
10 Ireland 0.9

Data from UK egg packing stations since 1996 shows increasing trends for the production of both all eggs and free-range production, while the trend for intensive production has fallen. These patterns are expected to continue until at least 2015.

Ms Gibbins identified four main challenges for the EU egg market: EU directives and legislation; the relative values of the Euro and US dollar; energy and feed prices, and pressure from governments on retailers to keep food prices low during the global recession.

For future success, Ms Gibbins said it is important for the industry to adapt to the changing conditions. She sees opportunities for innovation in egg product functionality, with special products developed for specific applications.

Looking ahead, she highlighted the 'perfect storm', predicted for the year 2030, by which time it is estimated that global food reserves will be down 50 per cent, while demand will be 50 per cent higher than today. Subjective figures suggest that food production will need to increase by between 50 and 70 per cent, she said.

These pressures will bring about the need to change so now is right to start preparing your business, concluded Ms Gibbins.

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