Fans flock to bone-in wings, choose ranch as the #1 dipping sauce in new nationwide poll
Washington, D.C. – The National Chicken Council today released its annual Chicken Wing Report, which projects Americans’ consumption of the unofficial menu staple of Super Bowl Sunday – the chicken wing. NCC’s 2018 report projects that fans will eat 1.35 billion wings during Super Bowl weekend, an all-time high, as the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots battle for the Lombardi Trophy. 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. Although we do anticipate an uptick in chicken cheesesteaks.”
To visualize how many wings that is…
- 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 (counting MetLife 2x).
- 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 2 minutes of commercials during the big game.
Download an infographic of this data by clicking here.
Fans choose sides
More than half (59%) of U.S. adults who eat chicken wings say they typically like to eat their wings with ranch dressing, according to a new National Chicken Council poll conducted online in January 2017 by Harris Poll.* The survey asked which dipping sauces or snacks chicken wing eaters typically like to eat with their wings. They could choose more than one option.
Ranch is once again the #1 side or sauce typically eaten with wings and its popularity has been growing steadily, up from 51% in 2014 and 56% in 2015. Only one-third (33%) like to eat their wings with blue cheese dressing.
The full rankings are: #1 Ranch (59%), #2 (tie) Buffalo/Hot Sauce (48%), #2 (tie) BBQ Sauce (48%), #4 Honey Mustard (35%), #5 Blue Cheese (33%), #6 Teriyaki Sauce (23%), #7 Sriracha (15%) and Nothing/“I eat them naked” (8%).
Wing eaters flock to bone-in wings
NCC asked wing eaters if they prefer to eat traditional, bone-in wings or boneless wings, and bone-in wings are widening the gap against their boneless cousin. According to the survey, 60% of wing eaters prefer traditional, bone-in wings while 40% chose boneless. In 2015, the spread was 54% vs. 46%, respectively. Boneless wings are typically white, boneless chicken breasts cut into strips, breaded or floured and tossed with Buffalo sauce.
This data parallels with recent research by The NPD Group, which found 64 percent of chicken wings served in restaurants are bone-in. Servings for the bone-in wings rose by 6 percent in 2017, while boneless wings declined at a similar rate.
The vast majority of wings, especially those destined for restaurants, are disjointed, with the third joint (the thin part known as the wing tip or flapper) being exported to Asian countries and the meatier first and second joints being sold domestically.
The two segments or portions, are known as the “drumette” and the “flat,” as opposed to the whole wing. So each chicken produces 4 wing segments.
A chicken only has two wings; therefore, the supply of wings is limited by the total number of chickens produced. Obviously.
The average price (wholesale, not retail) of whole wings as of January 24, 2018 is currently $1.56/lb, down significantly from a peak of $2.13 in September, 2017, according to the Daily Northeast Broiler/Fryer Report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Marketing Service.
Wing prices traditionally go up in the fourth quarter of the year as restaurants and supermarkets stock up for the Super Bowl, and prices usually peak in January during the run-up to the big game. 2017 actually experienced the opposite trend:
Where do Americans get their Super Bowl wings?
The National Chicken Council estimates that of the wings eaten during Super Bowl weekend, 75 percent will come from restaurants or foodservice outlets, and 25 percent from retail grocery stores. According to The NPD Group, the number of restaurants with the word “wings” in their names has grown 18% since 2014.
Although the vast majority of wings eaten during the Super Bowl are purchased from restaurants, bars or wing and pizza joints, wing sales at grocery stores and supermarkets spike dramatically the week of the Super Bowl.
Chicken wings are a strong component of the supermarket fresh chicken category all year, too.
At $881 million, chicken wings are the third highest grossing cut in the fresh meat chicken category, according to Nielsen FreshFacts, which is up 4.6% from a year ago. (Total U.S., 52 weeks ending November 25, 2017.) The two highest grossing cuts were chicken breasts and chicken thighs, respectively.
Although rotisserie chicken rules the roost in the deli prepared chicken category, wings came in a strong third at $590 million, up 5.6% from a year ago, according to the same data. Fried chicken was #2.
Buffalo chicken wing history
Deep-fried chicken wings have long been a staple of Southern cooking. But the concept of cooking wings in peppery hot sauce was born in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, when co-owner Teressa Bellissimo cooked leftover wings in hot sauce as a late-night snack for her son and his friends. The guys liked them so much that the Bellissimos put them on the menu the next day. Served with celery slices and bleu cheese sauce, “Buffalo Wings” were an instant hit.
Dick Winger, who sold hot sauce to the bar, went on the road with Dominic Bellissimo, the owners’ son, to promote the item and sell hot sauce, and the item gradually caught on with restaurant operators around the country. The concept hit the big time in 1990, when McDonald’s began selling Mighty Wings at some of its restaurants. KFC rolled out Hot Wings a year later, and Domino’s Pizza introduced its own wings in 1994. They’ve remained hot ever since. McDonald’s was back in the wing business in 2013, and its Mighty Wings were featured nationwide at most restaurants through the first quarter of 2014.
Chicken wings and football – A love story
The rise of the chicken wing and its correlation to American football all had to do with timing.
Cooking the whole bird was trendy in the 1960s and 1970s, but in the 1980s, U.S. consumers started preferring boneless-skinless breast meat, and wings became an inexpensive byproduct for chicken producers. Restaurants and bars realized they could charge low prices for the relatively inexpensive protein, and due to the spicy/salty nature of the sauce, they discovered that beer sales would go through the roof when customers ate wings.
At the same time, sports bars with multiple TVs and satellite dishes were becoming more and more common in America thanks to rapidly developing technology; and the most popular sporting event to watch with friends in bars is football. Wings were easily shareable and affordable, a great “group food” to eat with other people, and are the perfect pairing with a pitcher of beer. And so the pigskin-chicken wing bond was born.
The National Chicken Council is the non-profit, trade association headquartered in Washington, D.C. that represents chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce and process chickens raised for meat. Member companies of the council account for more than 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.
*This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of National Chicken Council from January 9-11, 2018 among 2,086 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 1,381 eat chicken wings. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Tom Super: firstname.lastname@example.org.
** The 2014 survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of NCC from January 8-10, 2014 among 2,018 adults ages 18 and older, among whom 1,576 eat chicken wings.
*** The 2015 survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of National Chicken Council from January 13-15, 2015 among 2,019 adults ages 18 and older (of whom 1,595 eat chicken wings).