Super Snack Sales for Super Bowl Sunday

Makers of chips, dips, pizza, and popcorn increase production in anticipation of football frenzy, but the most consumed food on game day is a big surprise

Workers at a Frito-Lay plant in Frankfort, Ind., toiled overtime this week as part of the snack maker's plan to ramp up production of tortilla, corn, and potato chips by about 10 million lbs. nationwide. Of Frito-Lay's 19 manufacturing facilities, the Frankfort plant felt the most pressure. It supplies products to both Indianapolis, 46 miles to the southeast, and Chicago, 143 miles to the northwest. Teams from Indianapolis and Chicago, of course, are vying for the NFL championship in this year's Super Bowl XLI.

Frito-Lay Inc., maker of Lay's, Doritos, Tostitos, Fritos, Cheetos, Rold Gold, Ruffles, and SunChips products and a subsidiary of PepsiCo (PEP), has good reason to expect a surge in sales coinciding with the big game. Last year, tortilla chips alone experienced a $10.2 million sales increase during Super Bowl week, and potato chips saw a $7.8 million increase, according to data from Schaumburg (Ill.)-based marketing-research firm ACNielsen. Those were two of the top four food and beverage categories that benefited most from the annual eating extravaganza.

"The Super Bowl is one of the biggest snacking days of the year," says Frito-Lay spokesman Jared Dougherty, who cites Memorial Day and July Fourth as other contenders. Lay's potato chips and Doritos tortilla chips are two of Frito-Lay's biggest Super Bowl sellers, according to Dougherty.

Other Food Fare

Kettle Foods, a much smaller chip manufacturer based in Salem, Ore., also significantly increased production and upped its retail display presence in anticipation of the Super Bowl. "It's the new national holiday," proclaims Michelle Peterman, vice-president of marketing for the company. Kettle Foods expects its Buffalo Bleu chips—a flavor the company tailor-made for football munching and put into production only after it won over customers in a "People's Choice" promotion—to sell particularly well over the weekend.

But it's not just the chipmakers who are readying for a supermarket blitz. Other product categories leading ACNielsen's report on last year's Super Bowl were beer ($17.9 million sales increase), cola and other carbonated beverages (up $13.2 million), frozen pizza (up $7.3 million), frozen poultry (up $5.4 million), salsa (up $5.3 million), and ice cream (up $4.7 million).

Kraft Foods (KFT), one of the world's largest food and beverage corporations, marks Super Sunday on its calendar as one of the strongest days of sales across the board. Sales of the company's frozen pizza brands, including DiGiorno, Tombstone, and California Pizza Kitchen, spike about 25% each year in the weeks leading up to the game. But Kraft's various cheese products are the greatest beneficiaries: Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Velveeta each see a 32% increase, and sales of Kraft Singles are 20% higher than an average week.

ConAgra Foods (CAG), a major producer of various packaged goods, has found that of all its brands, Ro*Tel canned tomato sauce, Hebrew National Kosher sausages, and Orville Redenbacher's popcorn are the most demanded by Super Bowl watchers.

Veggies, Anyone?

The NPD Group, a global provider of consumer and retail market research, recently released data counting crackers, "salty snacks," and pizza among the foods that are consumed in significantly greater quantity on Super Bowl Sunday vs. other Sundays. Harry Balzer, the vice-president of the NPD Group, has spent some 30 years studying Americans' eating habits. Balzer likes to remind the public that the most consumed food product on Super Sunday isn't fatty, fried, greasy, cheesy, or carbonated.

"The true money on Super Bowl Sunday is in vegetables," Balzer says. "You think everybody is watching the game, but [there are some] 210 million people in the country who aren't watching it. They're going to eat a Sunday meal, and that meal will almost definitely include a vegetable."

The NPD Group's study of the most common food on American dinner tables (or TV trays) over the past five Super Bowl Sundays ranked vegetables highest, present at 29% of meals, followed by potatoes (23%), salads (14%), and sandwiches (13%).

Signature Foods

If the biggest X factor in Sunday's football game is inconsistent Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman, the biggest X factor in the battle for snack supremacy may be the fans themselves. There are, after all, Chicago Bears fans and Indianapolis Colts fans all over country, and each side has its own distinct palate when it comes to football food.

"In Chicago, the big thing is hot dogs—Chicago Dogs," says Harlan Tarr, general manager of Mike Ditka's Restaurant, located in the city's Tremont Hotel. "They have relish, onions, cucumbers, pickles…everything but ketchup." Natives of the Windy City will also feast on Italian beef and buffalo wings, not to mention the most famous deep-dish pizza in the world.

Down in Colts country, Peyton Manning fans have their own signature snack. "The greatest sandwich in Indianapolis is the breaded [pork] tenderloin," says Everett Myers, co-owner of the Blue Crew Sports Grill. If you're making your own authentic Indy tenderloin sandwich, advises Myers, make sure to substitute mayonnaise for barbecue sauce.

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