There’s no doubt that chicken is the nation’s No. 1 protein. According to the National Chicken Council, Americans consume 83.6 pounds of it per capita, more than anyone else in the world.
In its 2014 Consumer Survey, the Council reported that 89% of consumers said they ate chicken during a two-week period. And they ate it often—an average of a little over six times during that period, a 17% increase over 2012, said Tom Super, vice president of communications for the National Chicken Council.
Those numbers are expected to grow through 2015.
“The USDA is projecting a two-pound-per-person increase in chicken consumption over last year,” Super said “That would be the largest year-over-year increase since 2009 to 2010.”
While a good amount of chicken is prepared at home, 70% of the consumers said they ate chicken from a foodservice establishment with an average of 2.4 meals or snacks (vs. 1.8 in 2012) in a two-week period. Fourteen percent said they had eaten chicken five or more times at a foodservice establishment.
This category growth is no surprise to Kevin Bible, food service district manager for Beck Oil’s FriendShip Food Stores in Ohio. According to Bible, the Charley Biggs Chicken N’ Sauce program has helped to make FriendShip stores a morning-to-night foodservice destination.
“It’s a conservative estimate to say that our chicken sales have grown 15% over last year,” Bible said. “Deli is our third largest category behind cigarettes and beer, and chicken is a huge part of that.”
FriendShip introduced the Charley Biggs program in two of its stores about eight years ago. Now it is in 13 of its 22 stores, with another set to open in July.
In addition to traditional mealtimes, customers are increasingly buying chicken at FriendShip Stores for snacks throughout the day.
“Chicken tenders are tremendous sellers for snacking; customers can buy them one or two at a time,” Bible said. “And we sell a ton of popcorn chicken throughout the day. It’s easy to eat on the go and in the car. I’ve seen customers buy it as a side order with pizza.”
Because the chicken has become such an all-day crowd pleaser, FriendShip starts offering product at 8 a.m., and until 9 p.m. During that time, the serving warmers are always replenished with fresh chicken.
“People know they will be getting a consistently fresh product no matter what time they come in,” Bible said. “We see people, most probably third-shift workers, buying full chicken dinners in the morning.”
To keep consumer interest and trial high, FriendShip goes beyond the Charley Biggs menu into sandwich, salad and pizza territory. Chicken is so popular that it will be one of the three items (pizza and frozen yogurt are the other two) that will be prominently featured in the new proprietary Hungry Anchor Café the company will be opening in its newest store in July.
“It will be the Hungry Anchor Café featuring Charley Biggs Chicken,” Bible said.