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Potential Impact of Listeria Outbreak on Hard Cooked Peeled Egg Sales

01/02/2020

The recent recall of hard-cooked peeled eggs and products (HCPE) followed trace-back of a total of seven cases of listeriosis diagnosed in 2017 and in 2019 among five states.  Although the Georgia plant implicated in the outbreak has been closed, production has been shifted to a sister facility in Arizona maintaining company output.  There are numerous plants processing hard cooked peeled eggs in the U.S. and total supply should not be adversely impacted.  The obvious question is whether negative publicity might influence consumption in either the short or the intermediate term.

 

Data assembled by Neilson and circulated by the American Egg Board on December 27th 2019 reflected the first eleven months of 2019. This data includes retail sales and presumably excludes the food service sector. Consumption of HCPE and derived salad products during the eleven months of 2019 should represent the basis of future comparisons as we move through the first quarter of 2020.  Based on the data for January through December it is calculated that HCPE represented 1.0 percent of the volume of eggs sold at retail amounting to 33.8 million egg equivalents or 2.8 million dozen out of a total of 3.35 billion shell egg equivalents or approximately 0.3 billion dozen.  It is significant that HCPE sales grew at an 8.7 percent rate in 2019 compared to the previous year.  Shell egg sales in comparison increased by 1.5 percent and egg products sold at retail declined by 2.9 percent. 

 

The dollar value of HCPE at retail was $167.4 million, three percent of the $6.1 billion for all retail sales of shell eggs and products.  The average unit value of $2.96 per dozen for HCPE increased by 9.1 percent in 2019 compared to a 10.7 percent decline for shell eggs and a 4.2 percent drop for retail egg products.  For the eleven-month reporting period, Neilson calculated that six-count packs represented 55 percent of sales followed by two-count packs at 23 percent.  These categories increased by 12.0 percent and 16.1 percent respectively compared to 2018.

 

In reviewing retail channels for HCPE, conventional supermarkets and groceries represented 56 percent of volume, up by 5.3 percent from 2018.  Convenience stores accounted for 16 percent of sales in 2019, up by 3 percent from 2018.  The combination of club stores and dollar stores accounted for 27 percent of sales, up by 18.8 percent compared to the first eleven months of 2018.

 

In February 2020, EGG-NEWS will compare volumes, prices and trends in an attempt to determine whether the Listeria recall and consequential but muted adverse publicity had had any effect on consumption of HCPE.