Egg producers hope to crack local market with vending venture

Chris Hull of Church Farm, Occold, with his egg vending machine Picture: DAN HULL

Chris Hull of Church Farm, Occold, with his egg vending machine Picture: DAN HULL - Credit: Archant

Free range egg producers have installed an egg vending machine at one of their hen houses in a bid to drum up more local trade.

The family-run venture at Church Farm, Occold, near Eye, has been producing free range eggs since 2009, selling some of them via an honesty box in the village’s Church Lane for a number of years.

The Hulls, who keep 17,000 hens, have now decided to set up a vending machine on the B1077 between Eye and Occold - the route which links Debenham and Eye.

“We wanted to offer an additional point of sale for our eggs,” explained Chris Hull, who, with older brother Dan, decided he wanted to be a part of the family business. “The vending machine is ideal as it is situated less than 10m from our hen house. Customers can literally see the chickens that have laid the eggs they’re about to buy. As far as reducing food miles goes, you cannot get much less than this, unless we can train the chickens to lay their eggs directly into cardboard boxes.”

The vending machine also stocks other local produce such as potatoes from Home Farm, Nacton, and honey and preserves.

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Its special ‘double yolker’ boxes – young hens lay a higher proportion of double yolked eggs – have already proved a bit hit, he said.

The produce is kept in individual vending machine lockers which are unlocked after payment.

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“We are trying to promote a ‘mixed weight’ egg box,” explained Chris, who has been heavily involved in the project. “The egg industry suffered a massive over supply of medium and small eggs over the last 12 months – partly due to the excessively hot spell we had which caused hens to lay a smaller egg, also partly because the consumer is obsessed with large and extra large eggs. The British free range egg association launched a ‘Big is not always better’ campaign to try and encourage consumers to choose a mixed weight box.”

Chris came back to the 300 acre farm in 2010, having studied business management. The Hulls originally kept a dairy herd but sold that in 2006 and decided to diversify into eggs.

The family decided to set up the new venture by the hen shed most visible to passing trade. At the moment the vending machine cash-only but will soon take contactless cards.

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