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Having it your way

Recently we went out for breakfast with our extended family. One person wanted eggs sunny-side up, another had an omelet filled with fresh vegetables and cheese, while a third wanted their side of bacon extra crispy. The meal served as a delicious reminder that the same basic ingredients, like eggs, can combine in so many ways to suit every preference. This is particularly true at breakfast.

At the American Egg Board, each quarter we’re tapping into the breakfast pulse in America to determine the overriding trends ruling menus and driving sales for both foodservice and retail venues.

This quarter, customization and mindful, healthy eating appear as the new normal. Whether they’re eating in or dining out, Americans want to know what’s in their food, where it comes from, how it’s made and they want to eat it their own way. In the latest installment of Incredible Breakfast Trends, we look at these New Behaviors and how they’re affecting American dining habits and breakfast. Here’s a glimpse: 

The Choice is Yours

Trend watchers credit Millennials with inventing customization, but they merely embraced it and led the rest of us toward culinary enlightenment. Americans have always ordered unique combinations of pizza toppings, dipped fries in tartar sauce and built their own omelets. While Millennials are taking the trend to new heights, prior generations also demanded customization. Don't forget, it was 40 years ago Burger King launched its ‘have it your way’ campaign.

The idea of customization is not new, but the delivery format in fast-casual restaurants, such as Chipotle and the like, is relatively new. Consider this: the fast-casual segment revenue grew 13 percent in 2014, which, according to Technomic, is 10 times that of the industry overall. And within the fast-casual segment, the build-your-own segment is even hotter – 2014 sales were up 22 percent

Read more about this Incredible Breakfast Trend here.

The Cultural Evolution of Health

For decades, doctors, government organizations and public health watchdogs warned Americans about the complications of obesity, sedentary lifestyles and diets consisting of junk food. By and large, they were ignored. But change is afoot. From a cultural evolutionary standpoint, it’s been relatively sudden. Setting the stage for all this was the cumulative effect of the 1960s counterculture lifestyle, the health and wellness movement in the 1970s and 1980s, and the recent cultural shift away from reacting to health problems in favor of proactively increasing quality of life.

The phrase “healthy food” means different things to different people. Some use food as a preventative health regimen, while others merely want to avoid sugar. There are those seeking high-fiber, gluten-free or high-protein meals free of meat. Dieters’ needs range from low calorie to high protein. And food manufacturers are left to figure out how to satisfy widely diverse requirements. Breakfast is a great platform to offer many options for virtually any definition of “healthy,” and food manufacturers are taking advantage of this in many creative ways from high protein breakfast bowls to egg white breakfast sandwiches.

Read more about this Incredible Breakfast Trend here.

Eggs are a good source of protein—in fact, they’re one of the only complete sources of protein. One egg supplies all nine essential amino acids, which are found in greater amounts in eggs than in plant-based proteins. This helps eggs fit easily into a high protein breakfast bowl or meal.

And talk about customization—at last Saturday’s morning meal, everyone in our party had eggs on the plate and each dish was prepared a different way. Looks like the future of breakfast will continue sunny-side up for those who like it packed with protein and filled with almost limitless choices.

2015-08-31 07:02:14
 

Millenials for mayo

Millennials might not have decided which party or candidate to support in next year’s presidential election, but when selecting a favorite condiment, they reach for mayonnaise.

A recent U.S. survey* by the Association for Dressings and Sauces reveals Millennials (ages 18 to 35) ranked first among all other age groups as frequent purchasers of mayonnaise or whipped dressings. The survey, conducted among 866 consumers aged 18 to 65, revealed that 37 percent of those aged 25 to 34 (the older half of Millennials) purchased the product in the past month. This is nearly twice the purchasing rate compared to the next group of consumers – those aged 55 to 65 (typically the age of their parents) — at 21 percent purchasing.

The national online survey also asked about the most popular uses for mayonnaise or whipped dressing. The top preferred use for mayo – among all age groups – was sandwiches: A full 90 percent said they spread it on a sandwich, followed by 73 percent using mayonnaise as an ingredient in cold salads. Forty-four percent use it to top vegetables, 25 percent on green salads and 25 percent use mayonnaise as a baking ingredient. As for myself, I like horseradish mayonnaise as a dip for sweet potato fries, or mayo spread on a classic BLT.

Speaking of the BLT, over the years a number of news outlets have spotlighted recipe favorites. The most recent roundup highlights restaurant interpretations of the BLT (in Nation’s Restaurant News) and it lists some flavorful twists of classic mayonnaise. Sandwiches feature cracked pepper balsamic or chipotle mayo, basil aioli, or in one variation that truly emphasizes the “B” in BLT — a bacon-infused mayo.  

Mayonnaise, when properly prepared, represents the perfect example of a thorough emulsion, when the fat is completely integrated into the water phase, without separation during storage or use.  Egg yolk, relied upon for its emulsifying properties, is a common ingredient in mayonnaise and part of its legal standard of identity as defined in 21 CFR 169.140.

When choosing a mayonnaise or whipped dressing, 40 percent of all respondents to the dressing survey said their number one factor was taste. With spicy foods on the rise in the U.S. (Euromonitor), consumers can now find mayonnaise flavored such as Sriracha, wasabi and roasted garlic. Although not a Millennial, I’m happy to represent my age group as a mayonnaise enthusiast.  We’ll be having a salad or dish made with some at my house very soon.

 

*Conducted in December 2014 by Turner Research Network, the survey polled adult consumers, aged 18 to 65, who identified themselves as the primary or shared grocery shoppers in the household and who purchased any type of spoonable dressing products from any retail outlet in the past 12 months. The sample for the survey was based on total U.S. households.

Photo Credit - Shutterstock

2015-08-17 07:29:00
 

IFT 2015 recap

Thousand of samples handed to passersby, hundreds of conversations and just as many (or more) questions about the current supply of egg products. All this and more characterized our recent experience exhibiting at the Institute of Food Technologists 2015 Annual Meeting and Expo in Chicago this July.

It’s energizing to work the booth at the show and this year was no exception. Particularly encouraging was the response from many formulators who expressed a keen interest in the use of egg products as ingredients. The functional properties of REAL eggs continue to be appreciated and valued for product applications of all types. The Buyers’ Guide was quick to disappear.

We did field quite a few questions about the current situation regarding avian influenza. A lot is happening behind the scenes with government, researchers, processors and farmers working together to prevent new incidences of avian influenza. Every possible avenue is being explored to restore the supply of egg products to its former levels.

In case you happened to walk the show floor, we had a corner booth with great visibility and lots of traffic. We noticed extra traffic the first day of the show, on Sunday, when we were sampling Dulce de Leche Pudding with Pumpkin Seed Crunch. We were filling sample cups as quickly as possible and still weren’t able to keep up with demand. Those who tasted it kept returning for more and bringing their colleague with them. I kept hearing, “My coworker told me I had to stop and try some,” or “I’ve never had a Dulce de Leche dessert that tasted this good.”

This rich custard flavored with caramel and vanilla bean incorporated egg yolks to supply creaminess and flavor and to capitalize on their emulsifying and thickening properties for proper texture. The sweet and spicy cinnamon-glazed pumpkin seed crunch lent a contrasting texture to the creamy pudding base and this textural balance received multiple compliments. The crunchy topping relied on egg whites for crisping and browning and to help the spices adhere

While the pudding was admittedly the star of the show, we also sampled two types of savory cookies that were well received; Rosemary and Asiago with Heirloom Tomato Curd and a Bacon & Caramelized Onion Cookie with Raspberry Balsamic Curd. Eggs supply crispness, structure and tenderness to the cookies, and emulsification, thickening, richness and creaminess to the accompanying curd.

This is our second year sampling product at IFT to highlight the incredible functionality, flavor and appearance of products that use REAL eggs and I think it's a winning concept. Anyone interested in following up after the show, or discussing methods to scale up these ideas, please contact me

2015-08-07 18:01:49
 

Sandwich Resurgence

The humble sandwich has never been more popular, with one MarketWatch editor calling out the breakfast sandwich specifically as the new battleground for market share amongst fast food establishments. Food manufacturers are introducing new varieties in order to capture the attention of a consumer population intent on convenient, handheld, flavorful options for the morning meal or snack time.

According to data collected by the American Egg Board utilizing Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), egg ingredients within sandwich offerings, particularly breakfast sandwiches and wraps, experienced double-digit growth in 2014.

The Sandwiches and Wraps category witnessed a 14 percent increase in new product introductions compared to 2013, with a focus on breakfast items.

This growth within the sandwiches and wraps category helped energize the frozen food section in retail. According to Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), sales of frozen breakfast items such as sandwiches and burritos grew 6.7 percent and breakfast entrée sales grew 5 percent in the 12-month period ending in August of 2014, with multiple national brands introducing new items. The percentage growth outpaces even that of the foodservice segment, which according to Technomic increased 4.8 percent annually from 2007 to 2012, slowing a bit to 3.5 percent in 2014.

Sandwiches, wraps and snacks that include a high-quality protein like those provided by egg ingredients are more filling and satisfying for consumers. And there’s nothing that beats the great taste of an egg on a breakfast sandwich, with any number of delicious combinations available for accompanying breads, cheeses and sauces, to fit any taste profile. 

2015-07-07 20:00:00
 

Convenience Reigns Among Consumers

Each year, the American Egg Board utilizes services provided by Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) to track the trends among foods using eggs as ingredients. Looking back at 2014 trends for a full year revealed that, according to both new product introduction categories and retail package label claims, consumers crave convenient foods more than ever.

Within the different categories Mintel uses to track new product introduction, several fit into the convenience trend, such as sandwiches and wraps or portable snacks. Meal kits make it possible to serve a complete dinner at home, for example, with little preparation time. Meal kits including egg ingredients jumped 13 percent in 2014.

Side salads can help round out a convenient meal, especially when pre-prepared. Within the potato category, a number of new potato salad forms entered the market, including diced or sliced hard-boiled eggs, or relying on egg ingredients for emulsification properties within the dressing.

Top package claims for 2008-2014 using egg ingredients definitely point out the continuing push for cleaner labels and convenience. Among the top ten:

  • Microwaveable
  • No additives/preservatives
  • Ease of Use
  • All Natural Product
  • Premium
  • Low/no/reduced trans fat
  • Low/no/reduced fat
2015-07-06 14:47:16
 

Avian Influenza

As avian influenza (AI) continues to affect the current supply of shell eggs and further pasteurized egg products, here is a summary of the latest industry briefing.

Market Impact

On June 2, 2015, the American Egg Board, along with United Egg Producers and Urner Barry, hosted a call to provide an update about avian influenza for key industry stakeholders. Egg farmers and government officials are taking every possible measure to investigate the cause and halt the outbreak, preventing its spread to other egg-producing states.

The last reported case of avian influenza in a commercial laying flock occurred on May 29, 2015. This brought the total for the infected population to 35 million laying hens in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin. This comprised 12 percent of all layers in the U.S. on 25 layer farms, with 30 million hens dedicated to the egg products industry lost to this disease. According to current estimates, there is a 30 percent shortfall in the further processed egg supply.

Due to the spread of the disease, several larger breakers (those facilities used to make egg products) are experiencing disruptions in supply. Further processors in the industry are utilizing every resource to find shell eggs that can be converted to egg products.

Industry Response

The egg industry is working closely with state and federal officials on key AI response issues, including euthanasia of flocks, management of mortality on farms, indemnity provisions that ensure affected farms can recover, and research into possible AI vaccines.

Farms with unaffected flocks are following strict biosecurity measures to prevent further spread of the disease.

America’s egg farmers are working hard to find sources for their manufacturing partners and foodservice customers. However, due to the current supply disruption, there may be some shortages. Several steps have been taken or are being examined to help alleviate product shortfalls:

  • The Netherlands was reinstated to export egg products to the U.S.
  • The U.S. currently exports between five to six percent of its further processed egg supply; some or a good portion of this might be used for domestic customers instead.
  • Suppliers outside of affected areas are going to be ramping up production when possible to help boost supplies of further processed egg ingredients.
  • Some of the shell egg supply might be diverted to breaker facilities.

The American Egg Board has prepared messaging that is available for retailers and producers to help explain this temporary situation to consumers.

Consumer confidence

In the midst of challenges, it is sometimes difficult to find or acknowledge good news. However, there are several points to keep in mind in light of recent developments.

  • Our latest research shows that consumer confidence remains high:
    • Nearly 2/3 of Americans haven’t noticed any recent news about AI.
    • Nearly 80 percent of Americans say that knowing about AI doesn’t affect their consumption of eggs.
    • Nearly 90 percent of Americans believe eggs are safe to eat.
  • This last point is perfectly valid—it is safe to eat eggs:
    • AI facilities are not allowed to ship shell eggs to market.
    • All further processed egg products are pasteurized and continue an unbroken safety record that spans more than forty years.
    • Pasteurization inactivates AI.
    • Eggs are completely safe to eat when handled and cooked properly. In fact, despite recent price fluctuations, eggs are still an inexpensive source of high-quality protein and other important nutrients. People should be comfortable in the safety of eggs and continue to enjoy eating them.

The American Egg Board continues to monitor the avian influenza situation and will provide relevant information as it becomes available.

2015-06-22 16:57:51
 

New Study, New Recommendations Highlight Importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D has been making headlines as nutritionists tell the general public that consumers need to make a more conscious effort to include it in their diets due to its health benefits.  A recent study led by a researcher from the University of Turku, Finland, and published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reports that a low vitamin D intake during childhood is associated with a higher risk of sub-clinical atherosclerosis in adulthood. 

Atherosclerosis is caused by cholesterol accumulation in the artery, which can lead to inflammation and blocked arteries. This chronic disease can go undetected and consequently untreated for decades. 

The study involved a large sampling of the population studying health effects of vitamin D over a long period of time. The study was initiated in 1980, when researchers measured the vitamin D levels of more than 2,000 young people in Finland, ages three to 18 years old. The same subjects were examined 27 years later, at ages 30 to 45, to measure carotid intima-thickness. The scientists also took into account other cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, physical activity and diet. 

Subjects with vitamin D levels in the lowest quartile in childhood were at significantly higher risk of IMT as adults. Vitamin levels below 43 nmol/L) were at significantly higher risk of IMT as adults. Current U.S. guidelines suggest optimal levels of vitamin D in childhood is 50 nmol/L. 

The study indicated children at high risk of developing vitamin D deficiency as those whose diet is poor in sources of vitamin D as well as children who do not have adequate sunlight exposure. 

Lead author Markus Juonala, professor of internal medicine at the University of Turku said in an interview on the Education News website, “Earlier studies have shown that vitamin D inhibits vascular calcification. It is also a potent immune modulator. There’s a lot of data showing that vitamin D insufficiency is bad for health, “ said Juonala. 

Overall, the authors concluded that low vitamin D levels in childhood were associated with increased carotid IMT in adulthood and further, that this association is independent of conventional cardiovascular risk factors.  The study further states, “Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency are highly prevalent among children worldwide.”

The recently released Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report for its 2015 recommendations listed vitamin D, alongside other nutrients, as one that is under-consumed and deemed a “shortfall nutrient.” 
Of these shortfall nutrients, vitamin D was called out as a “nutrient of public health concern” because under consumption has been linked in the scientific literature to adverse health outcomes. 

Vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods, according to the National Institutes of Health. However, eggs fall into the category of a naturally occurring source of vitamin D. One large egg, according to USDA, contains 41 IU of vitamin D. 

While functionality and flavor are primary considerations for formulators using eggs in applications the nutrient profile and contribution of individual ingredients can be a concern as well. Particularly when formulators are looking at creating a breakfast sandwich for example, to fit consumer demand for quick and easy handheld meals they can eat on the go, protein choice and nutritional profile become more important. Real eggs are a great choice.  

 


Juonala M, Voipio A, Pahkala K et al. “Childhood 25-OH Vitamin D Levels and Carotid Intima-media Thickness in Adulthood: The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study.”  J Clin Endocrinol Metab; February 10, 2015, doi 10.1210/jc.2014-3944. 

 

2015-05-01 19:06:02
 

Finding the “Sweet Spot” with Millennials (and other consumer groups)

As more data comes in about Millennial preferences, one aspect noted by Datassential is that, compared to the rest of the country, the Millennial audience seems characterized by a preference towards sweet flavors. 

In one of its “FoodBytes” reports published last Fall, it found seventeen of the top twenty dishes that skew towards Millennials are beverages and all but one are sweet. 

The difference really is remarkable. For example one dish, a Banana Split Flatbread served at Bonefish Grill appealed to 79 percent of Millennials, but just 29 percent of the total U.S. population, a full 50 percentage-point gap. 

Not that Millennials are the only consumer segment purchasing sweet items. The breakfast circuit also witnessed success with sweeter offerings including cinnamon swirls and cinnamon bread pull-aparts or dishes featuring peaches and sugar.  And close to half of all consumers surveyed said they were likely to purchase a croissant/donut from Dunkin’s. 

Formulators can take advantage of this ‘sweet tooth’ indicator for Millennials and other consumers while playing into the desire for single serve, convenience treats. Baked goods like cinnamon rolls or donuts are popular small indulgences. 

Retail sales bear out the trends seen within the foodservice segment. Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) reports the revamped Hostess Donettes, a mini donut, took second place just behind Little Debbie for the 52-week period ending November 30, 2014. The category leader, McKee Foods Corp., saw its sales increase 13 percent and the overall donut category appeared healthy in 2014, with a sales increase of 10 percent overall. 

General Mills recently rolled out Pillsbury™ Minis, bite-sized bakery treats in resealable packages containing four cinnamon rolls, crumb cakes or a variety of muffins. This roll-out specifically targets the C-store audience. As the company reports from IRI AllScan store data for the latest 52 weeks ending Sept. 7, 2014, breakfast items represent 64 percent of the nearly $2 billion packaged bakery category and grew five percent compared to the previous year. 

In cake donuts whether full-sized or mini, egg yolks add richness and tenderness to the finished product and aid with volume and shelf life. In a mini-muffin or crumb cake bakers can rely on egg ingredients to contribute binding and supply an impressive degree of leavening action. Nothing helps a baking formulation along better than egg ingredients, for appearance, texture and mouthfeel.

2015-04-17 16:30:16
 

Yolks for You: Successful Formulating

While the benefits of whole eggs and egg whites are well-known and celebrated, last fall the consulting and research group Sterling-Rice in Boulder, Colo., named 2014 the “Year of the Yolk” in its annual “Cutting-Edge Dining Trends” report, bringing the yolk into the spotlight.

In January, Restaurant.com predicted eggs would star in dishes in every daypart, not just breakfast, as the number one dining trend for 2014. Aside from being a tasty addition in foodservice establishments to everything from egg salad and omelets to more creative culinary concoctions such as egg topped burgers and pizzas, egg yolks play an important role in food manufacturing.

Salted yolk remains a staple for mayonnaise and salad dressing manufacturers for its emulsification properties, stemming from its composition of low-density lipoproteins. Pasta benefits, too, because egg yolks serve as a natural protein binder for all types of noodles. Plain dried egg yolk contains 30-32 percent protein and liquid/frozen egg yolk protein ranges from 15.3-16.0 percent. This binding capability is particularly useful in par-cooked pasta sold refrigerated under modified packaging conditions, or in prepared foods sold either refrigerated or frozen.

Egg yolks can supply a rich, golden color to pasta and baked goods, help bind, coagulate, act as a humectant to absorb moisture and of course, emulsify. Egg yolk thickens and binds when heated due to the protein denaturation making egg yolks a popular addition in meat and meat substitute patties and hot creamy sauces.

Egg yolks are available in dried, liquid and frozen forms. Typically, further processed frozen egg yolk will be comprised of either 10 percent salt or sugar. This is added to the egg yolk to inhibit gelation and avoid increasing the ingredient’s viscosity. Freezing the egg yolk does not affect their emulsification properties.

An enzyme modified egg yolk possesses high water solubility, enhanced emulsifying properties and has greater heat stability. In addition, the egg yolk features a full complement of impressive nutritional values.

2015-04-02 19:52:27
 

Don’t have this, but DO include that — What Consumers Want to See on Product Labels

A recent talk delivered at Food Labeling: Strategic Regulatory Compliance, early in February, by Shelly McKee, Ph.D., Director of Technical Services for the American Egg Board delved into the terms that help define clean labels for consumers.  Along with listing many ingredients consumers want to avoid (and the ways that egg ingredients can help formulate foods that suit that audience), Dr. McKee discussed the ingredients and types of labels consumers are looking for.

Most manufacturers are aware that consumers look for ingredients that are:

  • Easy to pronounce
  • Easily recognizable
  • Have at home
  • Natural
  • Familiar
  • Simple
  • Real
  • Limited to five ingredients or less

Certain studies get a bit more specific, however, about consumer desires. Consumers want product labels that include:

  • Any nutrition (80 percent)
  • Show the food is a good/excellent source of (vitamins, etc.) 62 percent
  • Foods low in sugar/carbs, salt/sodium 50 percent
  • Contain a full serving fruit or vegetable 48 percent*

In the International Food Information Council (IFIC) “Food Insights” annual survey, 2014 edition, IFIC reported 65 percent of consumers do read the Nutrition Facts panel. While reading, they are looking for ingredients that will boost the levels of certain nutrients in their diet, including:

Ingredients consumers want to increase (or get a certain amount of):

  • Fiber – 53 percent
  • Whole grains – 53 percent
  • Protein – 50 percent
  • Calcium – 36 percent

The Hartman Group published research supporting IFIC findings and relating it to health and wellness as key drivers for consumers, stating:

  • 28 percent seek out foods and beverages that are minimally processed
  • 26 percent look for only ingredients they recognize
  • 25 percent for locally grown food
  • 25 percent looking for foods with the shortest ingredient lists

The big idea here is keep it simple, make it healthy and keep the label short. Use ingredients that can help achieve this objective, including not just the functional side but the nutritional side as well. And don’t forget the golden rule — it needs to taste good too.

This is why ingredients like REAL eggs make such a difference. REAL eggs help keep product labels simple,  and authentic. With all of the functional benefits provided by REAL eggs there is no single substitute that can recreate the functional properties eggs provide and create a gold standard food consumers will enjoy.  This blog and many resources on this website discuss the functional benefits of egg ingredients. For more on the nutritional side, log onto www.eggnutritioncenter.org

*Mintel Nov. 2014 presentation

2015-03-20 01:34:07