The chicken wing is poised for a big payday in Super Bowl LII. The National Chicken Council released its annual Chicken Wing Report Thursday, and it appears, against all odds, that 2018 is going to be the tailgating staple’s best yet.
NCC projects that 1.35 billion wings will be consumed during Super Bowl weekend, which pits the Philadelphia Eagles against the New England Patriots on February 4. That’s a 1.5 percent increase from 2017. That might sound slight, but it actually accounts to some 20 million wings.
“There will be no wing shortage,” said National Chicken Council spokesperson Tom Super in a statement. “Whether you’re a fan of the left wing or the right wing, there’s no debate about America’s favorite Super Bowl food. Although we do anticipate an uptick in chicken cheesesteaks.”
You probably don’t need comparisons to understand 1.35 billion wings is a lot of wings, but here are some anyway, courtesy of the NCC.
- If 1.35 billion wings were laid end to end along Interstate 95, they would stretch from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. almost 250 times.
- That is enough wings to put 625 wings on every seat in all 32 NFL stadiums.
- 1.35 billion wings is enough to circle the earth three times.
- That’s 394 million feet of chicken wings—enough that a chicken could cross the road 13 million times.
- Americans will eat 20 million more wings this year. If wings were dollars, that would only buy us two minutes of commercials during the big game.
- The NCC conducted an online survey via Harris Poll in January 2017 to check in on some chicken-wing eating habits.
Data showed that 59 percent of U.S. adults prefer ranch dressing, up from 51 percent in 2014 and 56 percent in 2015. Only one-third chose blue cheese as their dip of choice.
- Ranch (59 percent),
- Buffalo/Hot Sauce and BBQ Sauce (48 percent)
- Honey Mustard (35 percent)
- Blue Cheese (33 percent)
- Teriyaki Sauce (23 percent)
- Sriracha (15 percent)
- Nothing/”I eat them naked” (8 percent)
A very interesting note emerged in regards to bone-in or boneless. According to the NCC survey, 60 percent of wing eaters picked traditional, bone-in offerings. In 2015, the spread was 54 to 46 percent. That gap, in other words, has not closed, much to the dismay of large-scale wing operators around the country.
The NPD Group also recently conducted research that found 64 percent of chicken wings served in restaurants were bone-in for the 12 month-period ended September, and that 1.1 billion servings were sold—an increase of 6 percent, with boneless declining at a similar rate.
This past year has been a challenging one for the chicken wing. In an August report, Mizuho Restaurant and Proteins Analyst Jeremey Scott calculated the average price of wings above $2 per pound—more than 60 cents per pound higher than the running 10-year average. During the second quarter of 2017, Buffalo Wild Wings said it paid $2.05 per pound for traditional wings―6 percent higher than the year before.
This led many chains, Buffalo Wild Wings included, to try to shift promotions to the boneless side. Boneless wings are shaped from chicken breast into wing-looking offerings. In BWW’s case, the brand replaced its Tuesday half-price wing deal with a Boneless BOGO offering in company-owned locations.
The Motley Fool recently reported that Buffalo Wild Wings faced some kickback from franchisees, many of which didn’t make the switch. The decision was intended to bolster margins and the company said the change improved its cost-to-sales margin by 40 basis points year-over-year. But clearly wing eaters are loyal to the traditional bone-in variety, and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.