We’re raised to not judge a book by its cover. But let’s face it: What we see guides what we buy, whether it’s clothing, cars or crullers. The same holds true for eggs … or would, if we lived in a country where eggs are sold in open flats and we could pick whichever eggs capture our attention.
Instead, egg choices often depend on first impressions. And, in the U.S., that means the humble egg carton.
Supermarkets, farmers’ markets and quite possibly your neighbors may be competing for egg-buying customers. So your choice of egg carton can create either a lasting impression or a quickly forgotten side note in the minds—and wallets—of your customers.
Here are four things to consider when selecting your egg business’ cartons.
Not all egg cartons are actually made of carton. Stroll through the dairy aisle of your supermarket and you’ll see egg cartons made of plastic and foam alongside the ones made of molded paper pulp.
Which material is better for protecting eggs? While many opinions—and middle-school science experiments—revolve around this question, no clear answer exists.
A better question, perhaps, is which material is better for the environment. Paper-pulp egg cartons can be composted and, if clean, recycled. Clean PET plastic egg cartons can also be recycled.
Very few municipal recycling centers process foam egg cartons, however. These end up in landfills, where they take an estimated 500 years or longer to break down. If you live in an environmentally conscious community or are environmentally conscious yourself, you’ll want to use paper-pulp or PET plastic egg cartons.
As for which material best insulates eggs, not too long ago I got into a discussion about this very subject. A few Southern friends claimed foam cartons keep eggs cooler than other packaging materials.
My belief is that most people go straight home after buying eggs rather than driving around with them for hours. So for the brief trip between your home and your customers’ refrigerators, any carton material should suffice.
The traditional egg carton consists of two rows of six egg cups. This is what customers expect, but why not surprise them with something different?
When we first started offering shell eggs, we chose a carton design consisting of three rows of four egg cups. There was a practical reason for this choice: We needed the visual reminder during egg packing time to help us differentiate which eggs were for eating and which eggs were for hatching.
Our customers loved these 3×4 cartons! They were new and different. They stacked easily inside a refrigerator, and they made us stand out.
Other design options include:
- half-dozen carton, featuring two rows of three egg cups
- 18-egg carton, featuring three rows of six egg cups
- circular egg carton, in which a half-dozen eggs are arranged in a ring.
Standard grey may be the most common paper-pulp carton color, but that doesn’t mean you have to go with the flow. Stand out by using colored cartons!
Your customers will get a kick out of seeing their eggs packed in sky blue, sea green, sunny yellow, lavender or petal pink. And your dozens will definitely be more memorable encased in color.
Change carton color according to the season, use them for special holidays, or keep your buyers curious as to which color will be up next. Foam cartons also come in a variety of colors.
Colored egg cartons cost slightly more than the standard grey but are worth their weight in customer smiles and word of mouth.
A personalized egg-carton label offers a touch of whimsy your customers will appreciate. These aren’t the labels required (and standardized in wording) by your state Department of Agriculture. These labels identify your egg-business, provide your contact information, and reflect your personality.
You can print these at home, send the art file to a local print shop, or have your labels specifically designed for you online.
Our labels featured photos of our layers with the phrase “Laid Fresh for You by” and the name of one of our girls. It was a way for our customers to better understand where their eggs came from and allowed them to build a connection with our laying flock.
We eventually replaced those with labels featuring our farm’s logo. But I do miss seeing our girls on our cartons.
Ready to stock up on cartons? Your best bet is to buy them in bulk versus paying premium rates at your local feed shop or farm-supply store. Contact your local store’s manager to see if they can help you place a bulk order for specialty egg cartons.
Most states prohibit the re-use of egg cartons due to the risk of salmonella. So always keep a supply of new, clean egg cartons on hand to keep your customers safe and to keep your eggs packed and ready to sell.