It’s sunny side up for the UAE’s egg market as we head into 2019, as manufacturers respond to growing consumer health awareness with a wider array of products.
Although growth rates are declining, the sector can expect to see a value increase of 2.3 per cent in 2018-2019, according to data from market researcher Euromonitor. The market expanded an estimated 4.5 per cent in 2017-2018 in dollar terms.
From a volume perspective, eggs recorded a 5 per cent growth in 2017, the latest year for which volume data is available. This is on a par with the combined annual growth rate for the five years from 2012, the researcher’s data shows.
“The eggs sector is expected to grow moderately in 2019,” Euromonitor analyst Monique Naval tells GN Focus. “Eggs are increasingly regarded as a convenient option to increase the intake of protein by health-conscious consumers in the UAE,” she adds.
As awareness of egg farming methods spreads and consumers are increasingly seeking to fill their shopping baskets with healthier, convenient alternatives, supermarkets are scrambling to keep up. Their response is to lay out organic eggs, cartons of egg whites, and for the allergy conscious and vegan faddists, egg replacers.
“Sales of organic and free-range eggs are on the rise,” says Kamal Vachani, Group Director at the Al Maya chain of supermarkets. “Initially, organic eggs were a small contributor to overall sales, but they are now becoming affordable to the mid-segment customer. So most brands are adding these SKUs to their portfolios.”
Producers are now stressing the benefits of added vitamins and nutrients, Vachani adds. Fortified eggs, which have also been on supermarket shelves across the UAE for some time now and retail at a comparatively lower premium, cater to health-conscious customers restrained by a tight groceries budget.
“With different varieties to choose from, consumers are gaining greater interest in eggs offering health and wellness claims such as Omega-3-enriched and organic eggs,” Naval says.
Consumers across the country are already familiar with brands from Western and Eastern Europe, Brazil and other parts of the Middle East and can consequently now expect to see an even greater range of brands in UAE stores, from a wider range of countries. “Local producers in the UAE are facing competition from imported eggs at different price points. On the one hand, there are imported eggs that are cheaper as these are subsidised in the countries of export. On the other hand, there are eggs imported from Europe with attractive packaging and sold at higher unit prices,” Naval says.
But as they say, you can’t make that metaphorical omelette without breaking eggs, and egg producers in the UAE, meanwhile, are rising to the challenge by capitalising on proximity advantages as buyers also look for sustainable, locally produced foods.
“Freshness of eggs will always remain the number one selling point for any brand of eggs,” says Dr Suheel Ahmed, CEO of Arabian Farms. “Short cold chain or supply chain from the farm to the table is extremely important for food safety and consumer health, efficiency of the distribution network and service levels follow suite.”
With a production capacity of 100 million eggs a year, the company runs an environmentally controlled and biologically secure operation on Hatta-Dubai highway. This allows it to package and deliver its newly laid Saha Dubai eggs to more than 400 retail outlets in the UAE within a 24- to 48-hour period, ensuring the freshest eggs in the market.
“The UAE egg market has always been fiercely competitive, always evolving with innovative variations with an inclination towards premium sectors. 2019 will probably be no different from 2018 in its emphasis towards freshness of eggs, local production as well as food safety.”
By all accounts, then, it’s unlikely there will be any new surprises hatching in the new year.