Consumers increasingly value animal welfare and seek out retailers, CPGs that do, too

Source: The Happy Egg Co.

Consumer concern about animal welfare is rising to a level that retailers – and by extension CPG manufacturers and suppliers – can no longer ignore, according to new research by the Food Marketing Institute.

“Since 2013, the number of consumers who say it is important that their grocery store practice animal welfare has grown from 17% to 21%,” according to FMI’s 41st annual U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends study, released June 10.

This increase elevates the issue above others that consumers previously sited as the most important, including local community involvement, which fell to 19% in 2015 from 23% in 2013, and store sensory appeal, which fell to 16% from 20% in the same time period.

In addition, American shoppers’ reprioritization of values means that animal welfare now “rivals and surpasses several environmental-oriented benefits that stores have endeavored to make visible for its shoppers and communities,” and makes it a “value that retailers need to manage and work towards,” the study notes.

Walmart most recently stepped up to the challenge, announcing in May that its suppliers must support the humane treatment of farm animals, including implementing solutions to address “concerns in housing systems, painful procedures and euthanasia or slaughter,” the retailer said.  It also asked meat and poultry suppliers to stop using antibiotics and antimicrobials for non-therapeutic purposes. 

Pressure increases on CPG makers

While the survey addressed consumer views towards retailers, shopper demands also are influencing their packaged food purchases – making animal welfare practices and claims important to CPG manufacturers, too.

Hip Chick Farms and the Happy Egg Co. are two examples of companies that are growing in part because they are communicating directly to consumers how their animals are humanely raised.

Hip Chick Farms recently revamped the packaging for its line of frozen chicken products, including meatballs, nuggets, wings and more, in part to call out that its free-range chickens are humanely raised on an all vegetarian diet.

It adds on its website that “our chickens only have one bad day,” which Gabriella Duarte, the company’s sales manager for the Southern Pacific region, said the supplier – Mary’s Free Range Chickens – makes as “gentle” and “dreamlike” as possible.

According to Mary’s Free Range Chickens’ website, Hip Chick Farm’s chickens are humanely killed in a controlled atmosphere stunning system that modifies the atmosphere to induce euthanasia with as little stress as possible.

Educating consumers

The Happy Egg co. also touts in marketing materials that its eggs are 100% free-range and its animal welfare program covers everything from living conditions to feed and the expertise of caregivers.

It also uses humor to educate consumers about how each of its hens has at least 14 square feet each and is free to roam outdoors eight to nine hours per day. Specifically, it teamed with comedian Ross Matthews to celebrate “Hendepence”  in March, which recognized the passage of California Proposition 2, which ensures all egg-laying hens have enough room to turn around freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their wings.

This message helps persuade consumers to pay $5 to $5.50 for a dozen eggs from the company, and helped make the Happy Egg Co. a $20 million brand, an executive said. 

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