According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans are expected to eat close to 92 pounds per capita of the nation’s favorite fowl, making it the most popular center-of-the-plate choice.
The National Chicken Council (NCC) noted that chicken consumption per capita has increased nearly every year since the mid-1960s, while red meat consumption has declined.
John Lyons, foodservice supervisor for S & S Food Stores in Alabama, Florida and Georgia, has experienced this trend first-hand. He pointed out that the stores sell about 600,000 pounds of chicken every year and a million pounds of fresh fried gizzards.
Of all of the food items on the fresh menu in the S & S stores including pizza, subs and other deli specialties, chicken is the top seller. It is sold in 21 of the company’s 75 locations.
Foodservice, a broad category that includes prepared and commissary foods, hot dispensed beverages (coffee) and cold and frozen dispensed drinks, continues to be a key focus for growth in the convenience store channel, contributing 20.8% of in-store sales in 2015 and accounting for 33.7% of gross profit dollars, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores. Across an industry where foodservice has evolved greatly, chicken remains an indispensable protein.
Breakfast is the fastest-growing daypart for chicken at S & S. Freshly fried chicken is available beginning at 5 a.m. Jumbo fried tenders, both on biscuits or just on their own with a choice of six different dipping sauces, are the biggest sellers although, as Lyons pointed out, gizzards also do well during this daypart.
In addition to fried tenders, the stores also offer bone-in breast with wing and legs and thighs baked, barbecued or smoked over hickory, applewood or pecan. Smoked chicken is the second most popular preparation after fried. S & S is also planning to introduce a rotisserie chicken in the coming months.
Lyons noted that chicken is also a “business builder” for both lunch and supper. Complete chicken meals with a choice of two sides and a roll or freshly-baked cornbread at a price point of $5.99 sell well all day. Fried gizzards are a favorite mealtime and snack choice throughout the day.
To go with the chicken, S & S offers six different sides including macaroni and cheese, potatoes and turnip greens.
“Many of our stores are close to businesses that work on shifts, so morning is actually supper time for many of the workers,” he explained. “We sell both boneless and bone-in chicken from morning until night.”
Some of the stores keep freshly-cooked chicken available until as late as 8 p.m. to meet the needs of all of the shift-working clientele. Lyons noted that the two things the stores emphasize is that the chicken is fresh, never frozen, and that it is prepared and cooked on the premises.
“Those are big selling points for us,” Lyons said.
A report presented at the NCC’s 2016 Chicken Marketing Summit indicated that consumers are also interested in knowing if any antibiotics are used in raised chickens as well as if the fowl is locally sourced.
Weekly Chicken Consumption
Results from an annual survey, conducted July 2016 by the National Chicken Council, indicate the weekly volume of chicken consumed in the U.S continues to go up as avid eaters seek more dining opportunities.
• Customers had eaten chicken an average of 2.2 times from a foodservice establishment, up from
1.8 times in 2015.
• 47% of customers said they had eaten a chicken meal or snack from a foodservice establishment
1-2 times in the two weeks leading up to the survey.
• 30% said three or more times in the two weeks leading up to the survey.
• 14% of customers said they anticipate eating more chicken from a foodservice establishment over the next 12 months.
Source: National Chicken Council, “U.S. Chicken Consumption,” July 2016