Maritime Pride Eggs

The egg business has evolved
Egg production, grading and marketing in Atlantic Canada has been traditionally carried out by a variety of small producer graders serving local markets. With the rise of large regional and national grocery chains, the egg business has evolved. By growing with the market, Maritime Pride Eggs (MPE) has secured itself a spot as the largest egg grading and marketing firm east of Montreal.
Located in Amherst, Nova Scotia, MPE has envisioned itself as the primary supplier of choice eggs and egg based products for Maritime retailers and consumers. By investing in state-of-the-art technology at a new plant more than three years ago, the firm has made that vision a reality, handling 12 million eggs each month, marketing eggs across Atlantic Canada, and supporting local farmers.
A loyal customer base
“Now that the large chains in the market want to deal with one vendor, the egg producers have to get bigger, more advanced,” explains Mark Beal, CEO of the company. “You have to grade at a lower cost and be more efficient in order to give these people the prices that they demand from you.”
MPE’s loyal customer base consists of large customers like Loblaws, Sobeys, CO-OP, Sysco and Shoppers Drug Mart, though they do supply eggs to smaller customers as well. The company’s excellent customer service and fill rates ensure that customers of all sizes continue to stock MPE eggs.
“The fact is that, here in the Maritimes, people are very loyal to local brands,” adds Beal. “MPE have all local producers so people know they are buying eggs from their communities. Also, they identify with a name that has been around for 30 years and they know we have a very good quality product.”
State-of-the-art facilities 
This good quality product is the result of a state-of-the-art plant that MPE built in Amherst, NS more than three years ago. At that time, the “Cadillac of egg-grading machines” had features on it that no other machine in the world had. “Since then, as technology advances, there are more and more machines out there like it,” says Beal. When the new machine was set up it was so unique that the installer signed a contract with MPE to ensure they could bring customers from all over the world to Amherst to come view it.
The machine can handle about 120,000 eggs an hour and uses technologies like a UV disinfection system, which uses UV-C light to eliminate 99.98% of any surface bacteria once the egg has been cleaned. “We have had a number of people in our industry from across Canada who own and operate companies similar to ours visit the facility,” says Beal. “They have described it as the Taj Mahal of the egg-grading industry.” 
When MPE set up the new plant it had the foresight to see where the industry was heading. “This is where the large vendors want us to be,” adds Beal. “They want to deal with one entity so we had to build a plant that has the capacity to grade every single egg that is available in Atlantic Canada and market them. And this plant does have those capabilities.”
Business in Amherst
MPE chose to set up its new plant in Amherst during the rocky early days of the economic downturn. The town has seen a revival since, though Beal is weary to give all the credit to MPE. “We set up here because it was a cost-efficient place to do business and it had a good resource of skilled labour to draw from,” he says. 
The company employs 36 people and has a payroll of well over a million dollars. “In a small community of 10,000 people that is a fairly good contributor.”
An unquestionable trend in the egg market is a movement towards specialty items like organic and omega-3. Compared to the larger Canadian centres like Montreal and Toronto, which have larger disposable incomes, the East Coast has a lower percentage of sales of these types of products. However, MPE is the exclusive supplier of omega-3 eggs in Atlantic Canada. 
“We have right-sized our flock and the amount of birds who produce those eggs to meet the market demand,” adds Beal. “That is the same with our organic and free-run. Those are still a small percentage of our overall sales but it is a growing segment. We are definitely always looking to market more of them and we have made up the supply-lines to make sure we can handle any kind of increase in sales.”  
MPE is producer-owned, which means that all of the producers who ship their eggs to MPE’s plant are shareholders. “I think we have shown that that business model works,” says Beal. “We have a very solid company that has done very well. We are proud that the eggs people buy here in the Maritimes are local.”
MPE’s goals are to continue to consolidate the industry by grading every single egg that is available in Atlantic Canada. “We have the plan, the capabilities and the machine to do that,” adds Beal. “We hope that by doing so we can maintain the markets here in the Maritimes and not have any challenges from outside companies.”