The momentum toward cage-free eggs in the US has reached a fever pitch in recent months. PepsiCo has pledged to use only cage-free eggs in its products by 2020 in the US (by 2025 internationally), joining CVS, Target, and Trader Joe’s, which have recently made similar announcements. Giant Eagle has pledged to sell only cage-free eggs in its stores by 2025, the same deadline self-imposed by Kraft Heinz, Snyder’s-Lance, Walmart and others. Mondelez International has promised 100% cage-free eggs in the US and Canada by 2020 and in Europe by 2025. McDonald’s Corp. has announced it will completely shift to cage-free eggs in its 16,000 restaurants across the US and Canada.

Half of Millennials put the cage-free/free-range claim among the top five claims they seek when buying foods

In making the switch to cage-free, these companies are not just responding to significant consumer demand or out of a significant desire to see animals treated better. These products also command a higher price: cage-free eggs, in general, cost roughly $0.15 more per dozen to produce, but eggs with a cage-free claim cost more than twice the price of standard eggs. The USDA says the national average for a dozen large white eggs is $1.29; for a dozen white cage-free eggs, the average price is $2.99. Per the USDA, cage-free chickens accounted for 4.5% of the total US commercial table egg layer flock; however, as cage-free becomes more of the national standard, the prices will likely fall.

Per Mintel’s Free-from Food Trends US 2015 report, 43% of consumers put the cage-free/free-range claim among the top five claims they seek when buying foods, a sentiment which skews notably younger: 51% of Millennials, compared with 40% of Baby Boomers. With the recent publicity around companies and brands announcing the move to cage-free, consumer sentiment could increase further. Regardless, the cage-free claim continues to gain momentum. Brands who have yet to commit to cage-free eggs face not only the risk of being second or third (or even fourth) to market with a cage-free claim; they risk being the last and, worse, the image of being unconcerned about animal welfare.

Billy Roberts is a Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, based in the Chicago office. Billy previously worked as Executive Editor covering consumer insights and new food and beverage trends with a leading trade publication.

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