The Los Angeles Rams have won eight of their last nine games, the Cincinnati Bengals six of their last seven.
As impressive as that is, the teams aren’t nearly as hot as one Super Bowl party staple: chicken wings.
Americans are expected to consume 1.42 billion chicken wings while enjoying a de facto national holiday – the NFL’s championship game, featuring the Rams and Bengals.
“It’s a day when finger food takes the place of sit-down meals,” Christina Russo, creative director for the Kitchen Community digital hub, told The Food Institute, noting that hot wings “are a perfect go-to finger food for Super Bowl Sunday.”
Hot wings have increased in popularity at a reasonably steady pace since 1964, when Teressa Bellissimo, co-owner of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, was widely credited with the creation. Right now, though, wings are as a red-hot as Eminem and Kendrick Lamar – two performers scheduled for Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show.
Data revealed that interest in chicken wings increased 20% in the 12 months leading up to January 2022, according to Ranjana Sundaresan, lead research analyst with Spoonshot.
“In recent years [hot wings] have certainly increased in popularity,” said Billie Zeelen, a frozen-food expert and owner of the related Bzice website. “Hot wings are so easy to prepare, they don’t take long to cook … and they travel well, making them a popular choice to order.”
While chicken will be plentiful on Super Bowl Sunday – annually, the second largest food consumption day in America – items like hot wings will be pricier than usual, with retail wing prices up about $0.30 per pound on average from a year ago, according to USDA.
“The pandemic caused chaos in the food manufacturing and supply chain, which added to the inevitable costs,” Russo noted. That, in turn, “meant that retail prices had to increase.”
“Aside from chicken prices growing, the price of fryer oil has increased immensely over the past year, along with the price of some of the ingredients used to make wing sauce,” said Megan Jones, community outreach manager for NutraSweet Natural.
Also of note, Daniel Estrada, the CEO of 86 Repairs, reported that the volume of fryer-related service requests increased 93% from the start of the pandemic in 2020 through December 2021, and the cost of servicing cooking equipment like fryers, grills and ovens increased 38% last year.
DEMAND SKY HIGH
The run-up to the Super Bowl typically leads to an uptick in chicken wing sales. This year was no exception – especially in Los Angeles and Cincinnati, as fans of the Rams and Bengals enjoyed a buffet of football. During the NFL’s postseason, Los Angeles saw a 37.3% increase in wing sales while Cincinnati experienced a 27.6% increase in sales, according to IRI data.
To help meet demand throughout the U.S., some chicken producers diverted birds traditionally marketed as whole birds for parts instead, like wings. Providing additional cushion is the fact that the end-December frozen wing inventory totaled 73.2 million pounds, up 70% from last year, the National Chicken Council noted. That’s ideal inventory, considering Americans’ growing appetite for wings, which is surpassed only, perhaps, by their passion for pigskin.
MORE SUPER BOWL STATS
Here’s a bit of Super Bowl party trivia: If the aforementioned 1.42 billion hot wings were lined up, they could circle the circumference of the Earth three times.
And, this year, 160 million vegan chicken wings will be consumed this Sunday too, according to Annie Singer, founder of the Reciple recipe platform.
“With major chains like Walmart and Target now carrying vegan wing options, and big-name chicken brands like KFC now carrying Beyond Meat nuggets, plant-based wings are increasingly accessible and convenient,” Singer said. “We’ll see more plant-based hot ‘wings’ than ever in 2022.”
— The Food Institute (@FoodInstitute) February 8, 2022