Countdown has promised to break free of caged eggs, aiming for 100 percent free-range eggs across all its stores by 2024.
Countdown, owned by Progressive Enterprises, is the first national retailer to make this announcement. Adding on to its previous plan to transition to free range and barn only in its own brand eggs by the end of 2022.
The move comes from growing consumer demand in New Zealand for free-range products. Countdown secured a new commitment from its largest egg supplier, Mainland Poultry, to provide a considerable increase in the number of barn eggs they will supply to meet this customer demand.
FRENZ Free-range hens
James Walker, Countdown’s general manager corporate affairs, says customer demand for free range and barn eggs has increased by 50 percent in the last two years.
“While customers are showing more and more demand for cage-free eggs, affordability is also a really important consideration in making this decision. As volumes of free range and barn eggs increase, we would expect prices to come down.”
Countdown is confident it has secured enough future volume from its egg producer partners to set down a pathway to being cage-free in 2024 in the North Island and 2025 in the South Island.
“By working together with all these egg producers, Countdown is confident it can source the 150 million free range and barn eggs each year we need to meet the needs of our customers by the 2024/2025 target dates. This is a huge move and one we’re really proud of,” says Walker.
The move comes on top of the new investments in more free range and barn egg capacity made by Countdown’s Egg Producer Programme members, Wholesome NZ, Otaika Valley, and FRENZ.
Rob Darby, FRENZ Director, says that even after 30-years’ partnership with Countdown the ‘free-range pioneers’ are excited about the prospect.
“The demand from retailers and consumers for high quality, free-range eggs is very real and we’re hoping this transition is the catalyst for other farmers to change their ways and move to cage-free as well.”
FRENZ have 15 percent of all egg farms in NZ but only supply around two percent of the nation’s eggs. The Countdown announcement means FRENZ has a 30 percent annual growth target to ensure they keep up with the demand of Countdown and other supermarkets.
FRENZ Free-range hens
While Countdown’s transition is the first nation-wide announcement, several independent retailers already exclusively stock cage-free eggs, including New World Remuera and Farro Fresh.
The transition is expected to be complete in the North Island by 2024 then the South Island by 2025.