Americans will consume chicken wings, a Super Bowl staple, at an all-time high this weekend, according to the National Chicken Council. The council estimates that fans will eat 1.4 billion wings as the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots face off for the big game. That figure is up 1.5%, or 20 million wings, from 2017.
“There will be no wing shortage,” said National Chicken Council spokesperson Tom Super. “Whether you’re a fan of the left wing or the right wing, there’s no debate about America’s favorite Super Bowl food.”
Throughout the year, chicken wings sales are a strong component in the supermarket fresh chicken category, too. At $881 million in sales, wings are the third highest grossing cut in the fresh meat chicken category, according to Nielsen FreshFacts.
These figures come after a year of fluctuation for chicken wing prices. Retailers complained about rising prices in the late summer and fall of 2017. And later in the year, Joe F. Sanderson Jr., CEO of Sanderson Farms, one of the nation’s biggest poultry producers, worried that the NFL player protests were hurting sales.
In September 2017, prices for chicken wings hit an all-time high with a peak of $2.13, according to the Daily Northeast Broiler/Fryer Report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Marketing Service. But prices have come back down. As of Jan. 24, 2018, the average price of wholesale wings was $1.56/lb.
At the time of peak prices, retailers tried pushing boneless wings with creative promotions.
“Everyone in our category is trying to move customers to boneless,” Matt Friedman, founder and CEO of Wing Zone, said in November 2017. “As a restaurant, the profitability of boneless is way greater.”
Despite these promotions, preference for boneless wings is 40% compared to 46% in 2015, according to a survey from the National Chicken Council.
But traditional bone-in wings are gaining fans. According to data released late last year, 45% of people surveyed by the NPD Group purchased chicken wings from a restaurant at least once in the past year, up from 43% a year ago. Wing-focused restaurants are seeing increased competition. The number of restaurants with the word “wings” in their names has grown 18% since 2014, according to The NPD Group. This weekend, 75% of wings will come from restaurants or foodservice outlets, according to the National Chicken Council. An additional 25% will come from grocery stores.
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