Especially after last year's massive recall of salmonella-contaminated eggs, a shell egg that presents no risk of salmonella or food-borne illness, even when used raw, would seem to have built-in appeal.
But when you've come up with a scientific improvement on a food staple like the egg, educating people -- as well as building brand awareness -- is very much a marketing priority.
That's why Safest Choice Pasteurized Eggs, which are contamination-free inside and out, has partnered with award-winning chef Giuliano Hazan to spread the word about the product's combined safety and taste benefits.
The product uses FDA-approved pasteurization -- a natural, warm-water bath process performed within the shell, with computerized controls -- patented in the '90s by James P. Cox, who developed it with R.W. Duffy Cox.
The Safest Choice brand was actually launched in 2003, when Lansing, Ill.-based National Pasteurized Eggs, Inc. (NPE) acquired all rights to the process/technology. But until recently, NPE has focused primarily on marketing the product to the foodservice industry, including health-care facilities and restaurants, explains Tom Izzo, senior director of global marketing for NPE. The safety factor is particularly critical in foodservice, and in particular in serving people who have weakened immune systems or are highly susceptible to food-borne bacteria, such as seniors and children under 10, those with diabetes, and pregnant women.
NPE began its first major push into marketing Safest Choice at retail within the last year. The brand has established a significant and still-expanding national footprint, with distribution in major supermarket chains (including Publix, HEB and ShopRite) that carry "value-added" egg products such as organic and cage-free, reports Izzo. (The brand recently introduced its own cage-free version.)
Privately owned NPE doesn't reveal its revenues, but does report that it has pasteurized more than 1 billion eggs since 2003 -- and its site indicates that Safest Choice will soon be marketed in countries around the world, as well as in North America.
While NPE's direct-to-consumer marketing plan includes those at greatest risk from food-borne illnesses, consumers' heightened awareness of the dangers of food poisoning clearly opens up the potential market to mothers and basically all people who are concerned about safety but don't want to compromise on taste, notes Izzo. Safest Choice eggs taste -- as well as look and cook -- like standard fresh-shell eggs, and have been awarded the American Culinary Federation Seal of Approval, he points out.
Like other "value-added" egg varieties, Safest Choice is somewhat more expensive than traditional eggs (generally in the $3.49 retail price range), but sales of those varieties are growing at about four times the rate of standard eggs, reports Izzo.
However, according to the Safest Choice site, "organic" eggs can't be assumed to have a lower risk of food poisoning than non-organic eggs -- and four out of five salmonella cases originate from raw or undercooked eggs. Moreover, a surprisingly large number of dishes (including classics like Caesar salad and eggs prepared "over easy") involve raw or lightly cooked eggs. Raw eggs have also become increasingly popular as a protein-booster in smoothies.
Cooking videos are a primary element in NPE's recently formed partnership with Hazan -- author of four cookbooks, including The Classic Pasta Cookbook, and proprietor, with wife Lael, of a renowned cooking school near Verona, Italy.
The first two videos feature Hazan using Safest Choice in preparing two recipes calling for raw or lightly cooked eggs -- tiramisù and spaghetti alla carbonara. The chef is also making live appearances on behalf of the brand, including some in-store cooking demonstrations, and more videos are likely to be developed, Izzo says.
NPE, a heavy user of social media, is driving awareness of Hazan's spokesperson/educational efforts by featuring the videos in its Facebook page (which currently has about 2,700 fans), aggressive Twitter activities (including Twitter "parties" around topics related to using pasteurized shell eggs), and outreach to food bloggers as well as other PR initiatives, reports Izzo.
Safest Choice is also selectively employing traditional media, including print advertising in geographic splits within AARP The Magazine.