Chicken Wing Demand to Hold After Super Bowl: Koch Foods

Chicken wing prices will rise at least 2 percent before the Super Bowl next month and demand will hold steady after the U.S. football season ends, Koch Foods Inc. Chief Executive Officer Joe Grendys said.

The price will top $2 a pound by the Feb. 3 game, and some spot loads of wings are already trading at that level, said Grendys, head of the fourth-largest U.S. chicken processor number of birds processed in 2012.

The benchmark Urner-Barry price for regular wings today reached a record $1.97 a pound, said Russell Whitman, vice president of Urner-Barry Publications Inc.’s poultry division.

“Wing demand is off the charts,” Grendys said in a telephone interview yesterday. The closely held Park Ridge, Illinois-based company is not affiliated with Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries. “I don’t see a big drop off in demand after the Super Bowl.” In the months after the football season, he said the price will be $1.75 to $2 a pound.

While wing consumption peaks during Super Bowl weekend, the dish has become increasingly popular year-round, Grendys said. Demand has been bolstered over the last decade by the rising number of restaurants with menus dedicated to wings or including them on the menu, he said.

Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. anticipates increasing locations in North America to 1,000 by the end of this year, up from 876 company-owned and franchise restaurants, the Minneapolis-based chain said last month. Most recently, McDonald’s Corp., the world’s largest fast food chain, said it is testing them in Chicago locations.

“It’s a finger food appetizer that is fun,” Grendys said. “It’s the hip thing to do.”

‘Affordable Luxuries’

After the Super Bowl, the delayed hockey season this year and the NCAA’s March Madness games will provide a number of occasions for sports fans to eat wings at home or at restaurants, said William Roenigk, senior vice president of the National Chicken Council.

“It’s one of those affordable luxuries,” he said. “There is a more consistent level of demand for wings throughout the year, but not taking anything away from the Super Bowl weekend.”

While restaurants may reduce the number of wing items on menus with prices close to a record, they won’t eliminate them completely, Roenigk said.

The concept started in 1964 in Buffalo, New York, and has become a staple on menus. About 3.2 percent of all dinner orders in U.S. restaurants include wings, compared with 1.9 percent in 1995, according to Harry Balzer, vice president of the NPD Group, a market research firm. Americans like finding new ways to eat chicken and wings offer an opportunity to explore new flavors through a familiar food, Balzer.

“It’s found a place in our lives,” he said.

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