ATLANTA -- Within the next few months, a new egg promotion campaign featuring former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop will break in stores, its goal being to defend the egg's reputation as a nutritional resource.
The program's centerpiece in stores will be a set of in-store posters and shelf-talkers featuring an endorsement of eggs by Koop, according to its organizers.
The campaign was introduced by Lou Raffel, American Egg Board president, and Donald McNamara, Egg Nutrition Center executive director, during a presentation at the 1996 International Poultry Exposition, held here late last month.
The trade group representatives said that while the industry has made recent gains, the nutritional profile of eggs still suffers from the theory that there is a link between the dietary cholesterol in eggs and blood cholesterol; high readings of cholesterol are generally believed to cause heart disease.
"We're making progress, but we require continued vigilance against the nutritional police. If you don't think they are out there, that would be a mistake," McNamara said.
Both McNamara and Raffel expressed their willingness to work with supermarket chains as an informational source about the value of eggs.
"Many supermarkets today have newsletters themselves -- with information for consumers at the site of purchase. If you need that kind of material written, contact me at the Egg Nutrition Center. We'll be happy to put together a fact sheet that you can use," McNamara said.
"The American Egg Board does regular mailings to consumer affairs directors of supermarkets, and we include this kind of information. We'll make sure that you get whatever information you need so you can provide it to your customers," added Raffel.
The new promotional material, in which Koop says that eggs are a part of his daily diet, is the latest in a series of initiatives by the American Egg Board, which stepped up to the challenge after the American Heart Association set guidelines in the early 1970s recommending that Americans eat a maximum of three eggs a week, and no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day.
After American Egg Board research showed that the average large egg contained 213 mg of cholesterol rather than the 275 mg the Heart Association used in computing its guidelines, the health group raised the consumption ceiling from three to four eggs a week.
McNamara said that while that change was constructive, the egg industry should not be satisfied until the 300 mg per day cholesterol ceiling is eliminated.
"You have to look at the recommendation of 300 mg per day as a stagnant aspect of public policy. It has not moved in 25 years," McNamara said. "Nutrition research as a science tends to flow and be dynamic, developing new information which we try to apply. When we try to, we find it is hard to move stagnant policy. The 300 mg per day dietary recommendation is there today because everybody uses it and that's what you are stuck with," he said.
"Although there are many arguments against it and little scientific evidence in support of it, because it is policy I'm afraid it is going to be around for a number of years," McNamara added.
Besides Dr. Koop's shelf-talkers, the egg industry will launch or enhance several other initiatives this year, including a TV and radio campaign, print ads in women's and health magazines, and ads in food-trade publications.
"We'll be looking for additional opportunistic projects such as last year's program that capitalized on the price advantage of eggs when there was a lot of publicity about the high prices of cereal," McNamara said.
The Egg Nutrition Center and American Egg Board will supplement these efforts with increased outreach to health care providers.
A mailing touting the value of low-fat eggs in the diet was recently sent to 28,000 physician assistants. The groups will also prepare literature for distribution at medical trade shows, and will launch a site on the Internet, where, McNamara said, new research can be posted, updated and made available to health-care professionals, consumers and retailers.
Also at the conference, University of Georgia Prof. Richard Schermerhorn released a study detailing changes in egg production and packaging costs from 1985 to last year.
The study of more than 30 egg packagers revealed that over the 10-year period, foam carton prices jumped 20.4%, 12-egg pulp containers 21.3% and 18-egg pulp containers 11.3%. In-plant labor costs rose an average of 32.2% during the same time span, and increased 41.7% with employee benefits factored in.