In AEB’s recently published white paper, A New Generation To Feed: Zeroing in on Gen Z’s Preferences, the egg marketing board found Americans between the ages of 7 and 22 years are the most ethnically diverse generation in the US with almost half (48%) self-identifying as non-white, which “could be the root of their experimenting with ethnic flavors,” according to the research, which will be shared at the upcoming IFT virtual conference. If found Indian, Middle Eastern and African cuisines are emerging favorites, according to parents with children younger than 18 years.
“In addition to experimental flavors, this group is also open to sharing their food experiences; searching out that which is personable and photogenic” to share on social media – which in turn inspires their peers to discover and try new flavor combinations, dishes and food products, the paper reports.
While considered by many to be a basic kitchen staple, eggs fit nicely into this trend and can play both a starring and supporting role in new product development to help manufacturers meet this diverse demand, Elisa Maloberti, director of egg product marketing at the American Egg Board, told FoodNavigator-USA.
She explained that “the simple fact that eggs are found in all different ethnic groups’ diets and can support many different flavors, shows how the sky is the limit when it comes to the roll they can play in products.”
For support, Maloberti noted, “the neat stuff that has come out lately featuring eggs, which show how product developers might incorporate eggs into new products” that appeal to Gen Zers diverse palates.
From egg bites to chips to a breading alternative
For example, Maloberti pointed to the proliferation of egg bites with diverse flavor profiles that first appeared at Starbucks but can now be found in grocery and convenience stores from brands including Nestle’s Life Cuisine, Organic Valley, Nellie’s and Valley Fine Foods’ Three Bridges baked egg bites, just to name a few.
Each brand offers flavor profiles that are both comforting, like Organic Valley’s Han & Swiss Egg Bites, and also upscale, such as Three Bridge’s mushroom and asiago cheese or uncured bacon and cheese.
While egg bites are rooted in classic breakfast cuisine, Maloberti said, their size and convenience has helped carry the egg into the snacking category.
“It is interesting to see that some of these products that first may be positioned for breakfast … are now okay to eat outside of the breakfast hour” – a transition that was turbo-charged by McDonald’s offering breakfast all day, Maloberti said.
With the floodgates to snacking open to eggs, Maloberti said, the ingredient is being featured prominently in products that would not be mistaken for breakfast, such as Lesserevil’s Grain Free Egg White Curls, which Maloberti described as a crunchy, protein-packed alternative to the classic cheese puff. She also noted they come in a range of flavors that appeal to Gen Z’s experimental side – such as Huevos Rancheros – as well as their desire for comfort, as in the Egg & Cheese of simple Himalyan Pink Salt.
Egg whites also play a key role in Epic Performance Bars and RXBAR Oatmeal for an added dose of protein and functionality. As well as in the ongoing demand for low-carb options, such as Foster Farms’ Smart Crust Pizza which replaces a traditional flour crust with one made from chicken, egg white and cheese, Maloberti said.
While less fanciful, Maloberti said, hard boiled eggs also are gaining popularity – especially as grab and go items at convenience stores or in grocery stores. She noted that these can range from something as simple a twin pack of hard-boiled eggs with salt and pepper packets to eggs paired with a dipping sauce in a package that gives consumers control over how much sauce to add.
The meal kit trend has even come to eggs, she added, noting that grocery stores now offer deviled egg kits with hard boiled eggs cut in a half, hollowed out and with a packet that combines the yolk and other key ingredients for consumers to simply snip and squeeze to make their deviled egg.
Innovation with eggs is up
If this sounds like a lot of innovation around eggs, it is because it is. According to Innova databased, last year product launches prominently featuring eggs shot up 3.3% compared to the prior year and appeared to close to 3,400 new products in 2019.
And while demand, and consumption of these products, far exceeds just Gen Z, Maloberti said, the potential for eggs really shines with the younger generations, including Millennials and their Generation Alpha children.
She explained this is not only because of the diversity of their applications and flavor profiles, but also because they are convenient, which AEB research found was an important characteristic for 40% of Gen Z.
Eggs also check Gen Z’s demand for products that are natural and their aversion to artificial ingredients, additives and preservatives in part because eggs perform so many functions that they can help keep ingredient lists short and familiar, Maloberti said.
Ultimately, she said, eggs appeal to people of all ages because “they are a great canvas that product developers can use as a springboard to add their own flavoring or personal touch.”
Connect with the American Egg Board at the virtual IFT show July 13-15.