The Challenge

From humble origins selling smallholders’ eggs door-to-door in the 1920s, continual growth turned Noble Foods into the UK’s biggest supplier of farm fresh eggs. When they started the happy egg co in 2009, they had £400 million of UK sales. Size, though, did not diminish the challenge they set themselves and JAA: to bring free range eggs to a mass UK audience by branding a commodity. Starting from scratch, we aimed to establish the first distinctive brand of eggs. And we did it. By 2011 THEC was a brand worth £75 million.

Growth was fuelled by £3 million of rigorously-planned and weighted TV advertising, shaped by the theories of Sharp, Binet & Field. Econometric studies in 2012 defined TV’s long-term Revenue Return on Investment as £2.70 for every £1 invested, far above category norms. THEC had beaten the odds with a clear positioning, loyal buyer base and healthy price premium. Then, THEC lost their way. From 2013 just one burst of TV ran in three years. Marketing team changes, budget pressures and new retailer dynamics putting pressure on pricing saw THEC vacate the airwaves. The consequences were damaging:

  • Egg prices were squeezed and THEC’s premium eroded as Aldi and Lidl thrived
  • Noble Foods’ portfolio management misfired as their Big Fresh brand cannibalised THEC
  • Brand penetration fell from 26% to 18% as THEC lost two million households in two years

Much of 2009-11’s great work was being undone. In early 2016 JAA met the new THEC marketing director. From there, the comeback began – not once, but twice.


Returning THEC to growth demanded belief and persistence. We had to win some of the same arguments again by marshalling the evidence of TV’s long-term effectiveness.

Phase One: 2016-17

Three factors were central to convincing THEC to return to TV:

i. Our rigour in budget-setting

Models such as SOM/SOV analysis and awareness-to-trial methodologies were used in conjunction with econometrics learning to set TV budgets. This defined investment at the maximum level required before diminishing returns set in.

ii. Our understanding of how TV drives sales

Binet & Field’s work on brand fame remained integral to our thinking. We drew on Kantar Worldpanel data to prove the importance of reaching infrequent buyers. Assessing ‘mean versus modal’ purchasing showed iconic FMCG brands like Coke were, on average, being bought just once a year. Occasional buyers were pivotal, affirming why a return to TV for THEC was essential.

iii. Our commitment to extending TV beyond traditional airtime

To extend presence and increase saliency we used broadcast sponsorship, brokering a deal with ITV’s Good Morning Britain weather, a cost-efficient national platform with the right audience profile. Targeted online video and paid social activity enhanced TV reach.

Happy Eggs returned to TV with two national bursts in 2016 and a third in early 2017, with sponsorship support for nine months. Results were outstanding. Between March 2016 and June 2017, THEC penetration rose from 18.4% to 21.2%. In 15 months we won back 700,000 of our two million lost households. Brand sales rose 11% in 2017. Econometrics defined media ROI at £1.14 for the short-term and £3.23 for the long-term, surpassing category norms for both measures.

Phase Two: 2018-20

Having remained around 21% until June 2018, with a return to everyday low pricing, THEC penetration rose steadily again to reach 23% in January 2019. It stayed at this level until 2020 when a return to national TV advertising stimulated a sharp uplift which accelerated during the Covid-19 outbreak. A burst of 500 TVR from early February to mid-April 2020 coincided with a THEC penetration rise from 22% to 25%. By June 2020 penetration was at a record high of 29%, an increase of six percentage points in one year.

1 in 3
UK Households buy Happy Eggs


THEC’s recent rapid growth in sales has undoubtedly been influenced by changing shopping habits in lockdown but the foundations for brand revival were already laid. Having lost visibility after 2013 THEC’s return to TV triggered a reversal in brand fortunes. With the same consistency and clarity of TV planning, JAA refreshed THEC’s strategy with sponsorship and online video, maintained a meticulous approach to setting weights and budgets and helped Noble Foods’ marketing team make the winning case for sustained media investment. With nearly one in three UK households buying Happy Eggs, we can look back on a decade in which we successfully branded one of the most basic commodities of all - not once but twice.


The Happy Egg Company: Branding a Commodity - Twice

We aimed to establish the 1st distinctive brand of eggs, essentially branding a commodity. We did it, once with huge success between 2009-2011, and then again in 2016. How? Through our understanding of how TV drives sales & our commitment to extend TV beyond traditional airtime

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John Ayling & Associates