Eggland's Best believes that nutrition rules the roost

  • Article by: DIANE MASTRULL , Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Updated: August 30, 2014 - 2:00 PM

The producer of premium eggs is growing rapidly by differentiating its product.

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Eggland’s Best CEO Charles Lanktree, at his company headquarters in Jeffersonville, Pa., says he expects the specialty egg market to expand.

Photo: Ed Hille • Philadelphia Inquirer,

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While the egg industry in general has had sales as flat as a crepe, Eggland’s Best, a producer of higher-nutrition eggs, has seen unit sales increase by double digits each of the past 17 years, an average of 14 percent each year, said Charles T. Lanktree, president and CEO. Retail sales last year were $758 million.

“We think specialty eggs is going to continue to be a bigger and bigger and bigger part of the entire egg category,” Lanktree said.

His company’s goal is to be for the egg industry what Chobani is for yogurt: a standout brand that attracts more consumers.

“The category has blossomed,” Lanktree said. “We hope we can do that with eggs.”

Compared with generic eggs, Eggland’s Best says its large egg contains 25 percent less saturated fat, 38 percent more lutein, 10 times more vitamin E, four times more vitamin D, three times more vitamin B12, and double the Omega-3. It has 175 milligrams of cholesterol.

Last week, the company announced the per-egg calorie count in all varieties, including organic and cage-free, had dropped to 60 from 70.

Produced on 50 farms in 34 states, Eggland’s eggs usually arrive at markets within three days of laying.

They come from a network of franchisees, including a subsidiary of Arden Hills-based Land O’Lakes, that use specially formulated feed sold by the company.

Eggland’s tries to keep the cost of a dozen eggs to around $3, Lanktree said. The price of generic eggs fluctuates greatly.

In abundance at Eggland’s Best headquarters are product analyses from university agriculture programs, certifications from specialty food associations and awards from health groups and publications, all attesting to the freshness, taste and nutritional value of EB eggs.

But the real root of the company’s success in capturing 70 percent of the specialty egg market is something that doesn’t take place in its lab or its hen houses — it’s marketing, said John Stanton, professor of food marketing at St. Joseph’s University.

To drive home the point, he posed: “Tell me the next brand of egg you can think of.”

Silence.

“I’m not sure whether any of the claims that Eggland’s makes are … true or false,” Stanton said. “But unlike every other egg, they’re making claims. They’re actually telling people, ‘These are the best eggs.’ ”

The results have demonstrated that “people will pay more if you give them a reason to pay more,” he said.

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