After rice, atta, edible oils and even water, it's now time to brand eggs. In the market, launched recently are two 'branded' egg - Diet Eggs and Mother Hen's Golden Egg. While Diet Eggs is a brand from Bangalore-based Kool Komestibles, the latter has been launched by the Cochin-based Zephyr Foods.
So how do these players differentiate their eggs from the normal ones? While attractive packing is one mode (here, Diet Eggs scores over Mother Hen's Golden Egg), the health platform is the other mode on which both the companies are actively pushing their products. Their claim about additional nutritional properties is derived by suitably modifying the poultry feed.
Zephyr Foods claims that its eggs are rich in carotenoids - beneficial anti-oxidants which lower the risk of cancer, heart diseases, loss of eyesight and other age related diseases. The carotenoids-rich eggs are obtained by feeding hens with a special diet rich in natural plant extracts containing carotenoids. This feed is supplied by the Mexico-based AVT Natural Products Ltd/Bioquimex Reka.
According to Mr Naveed, chairman & managing director of Kool Komestibles, the first Indian company to brand eggs, "World over such eggs are called designer eggs, but we decided to name it as Diet Egg. But I assure you it is hundred per cent natural egg."
According to him, Diet Eggs is the outcome of 12 years of research by Dr.Jeong Sim, a scientist at the University of Alberta, who modified the hen feed, thereby altering the fatty acid composition of yolk fat.
The incorporation of Omega -3 PUFA into the egg yolk fat was easily accomplished by feeding laying hens' with a diet containing Omega-3 fatty acid (Linolenic Acid). The benefits of Omega - 3 is that it protects the heart against cardiovascular diseases, helps in reducing cholesterol and blood clot formation, etc. In addition, Diet Eggs don't have the 'smell' of normal eggs.
While the University gives the secret feed composition to Kool Komestibles, it gets paid a royalty on the basis of sales. The company has got the licence to operate in neighbouring countries too.
"Diet Eggs has more Omega -3 PUFA (Poly-unsaturated Fatty Acids) which is equivalent to 100 grams of fish and 100 per cent more Vitamin E," claims Mr. Naveed.
However, an independent authority like the National Egg Co-ordination Committee or Agmark has not yet certified the claims made by both the companies.
The market for branded eggs in India, compared to that of the normal eggs, could be said in an embryonic stage. But it is definitely growing. The poultry farms in India generate a production of around 110 million eggs daily, making India as one of the top egg-producing nations in the world. However, the per capita consumption is less than 40 eggs per year. The National Egg Co-ordination Committee aims to achieve a per capita consumption of 180 eggs by the year 2015.
"The four farms of Kool Komestibles, three in Bangalore and one in Mysore, set up at an outlay of Rs. 2.5 crore has around 200,00 birds laying around 1.78 eggs per day", says executive director Mr. Aga. Of that, only 72,000 are Diet Eggs. "We will scale up the production based on the demand by increasing the birds fed with the special diet," says Mr. Naveed.
The price of branded eggs is one factor that restricts their growth. Both the brands are available in a pack of six. While Diet Eggs is priced at Rs. 24 for a pack of six , Mother Hen's Golden Hen costs Rs.19.50 for a similar pack. This works out to Rs. 4 and Rs.3.25 per egg respectively, as against Rs.1.50 per normal egg.
An inter-brand comparison shows that Mother Hen's Golden Egg is priced higher vis-a-vis its nutritional benefits. Further, Kool Komestibles claim a shelf life of one month without refrigeration and two months when refrigerated.
"The promotion and distribution channel costs a lot," says Mr. Aga. Retailers are supplied at Rs 21.75 per box. According to him, the demand is growing at a fast rate with hotels like Le Meridian, Taj Presidency, Silver Oak and Victoria - all based in Bangalore and the GRT Grand Days in Chennai, sourcing the product in bulk. Similarly the Cricket Club of India, Mumbai, is also likely to source in bulk from Kool Komestibles.
According to Mr. Aga, the company is targeting to sell 25 per cent of the production to bulk buyers and accordingly is evolving a pricing strategy. At the retail level, he says Diet Eggs are available in all the major food retail chains like FoodWorld, Nilgiris, Vitan, etc. located in Chennai, Bangalore, Madurai, Cochin and Andhra Pradesh.