Product quality and provenance are becoming increasingly important to retailers and consumers. Yet, for some suppliers, the sourcing of raw ingredients comes well down the list when formulating products.

There is now much greater consumer understanding of the provenance of food and a higher level of expectation that companies will provide top-quality products using the best raw materials. No company is exempt. It is no longer acceptable to treat ingredients as the lowest common denominator when producing food products.

As producers of British Lion Quality egg products, we undertook detailed research into this area recently and the results show that consumers expect the eggs used in manufactured products to be both British and of the highest quality. Consumer consciousness over product provenance has steadily gathered pace for several years, and our research showed that some 80% were prepared to vote with their pockets and buy products on the strength of their ingredients. Suppliers that do not use British eggs within traditionally British foods risk alienating consumers, who may feel they have been misled.

In recent years, there have been a number of issues associated with eggs and feed, including dioxins, nitrofurans and medical residues. The Lion Quality scheme’s robust Code of Practice ensures that these risks are minimised. Lion Quality egg products are produced to the highest standards in Europe. Standards include feed controls, vaccination of the laying flock against salmonella, full traceability and additional food safety controls.

But it’s not just about avoiding a negative consumer reaction; there are some very positive benefits that can be gained from using high-quality ingredients. Lion Quality egg products ensure buyers are guaranteed a top-quality British product, produced to the highest standards of food safety. Consumers want to buy British, so why not make a virtue of the fact that you are using British ingredients?

As an industry, we are in discussions with a number of organisations about promoting ’British’ on-pack. Some companies, such as McDonald’s and Aunt Bessie’s, have already used the Lion mark in their own marketing campaigns. The mark has consumer awareness of 86%, by far the highest for any food quality mark, so suppliers can capitalise on its recognition.

There is also increasing concentration on carbon footprints and local sourcing. Massive media interest in this area again provides potential pitfalls, but also huge opportunities. Today’s consumers expect transparency as a matter of course. There is no longer such a thing as ’just an ingredient’. Manu-facturers need to think in terms of whole product provenance and deliver what the consumer wants.

Forward-thinking manufacturers should capitalise on changing consumer expectations, deliver high-quality products that use the best ingredients and turn this into a marketing advantage, by leaving the consumer in no doubt as to the product’s provenance. Lion Quality egg products may just provide that essential ingredient.

l Clive Frampton is chairman of the British Egg Products Association