Since its creation in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y., the chicken wing has been an American staple, although, nobody could have foreseen the popularity it would achieve during the pandemic. While the item hit record sales in 2020 and 2021, it appears the overblown demand for it may be coming to an end.
When lockdown went into full effect, Americans felt a lot of unease, causing them to act out in different ways—and overindulging in food was one of them. When it came to one ranch-dipped poultry delight, the delivery stars aligned. Sales for chicken wings ended up reaching their highest on record during the pandemic period. Wingstop alone reported its sales grew nearly 32% at one point in 2020, all while its dining rooms were closed.
This made the prices of chicken wings surge as America's cold storage stock of chicken wings was at its lowest point since 2011.
But that shortage is now over, according to the National Chicken Council, and it appears the demand for chicken wings has finally leveled out. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Northeast Broiler/Fryer Parts reports, the wings are currently selling at a price that's about 40% below its peak in May of 2021.
While inflation prices, past shortages, or other market dynamics may have an effect on demand, sales are still steady for bone-in breasts, tenders, and boneless breasts, suggesting customers are still eating chicken sandwiches and other products—just not wings.
Chicken wings, which make for an optimal takeout food due to their consistency over time and ability to reheat, could be suffering from a general decline in their prime market. With delivery apps like Grubhub, DoorDash, and Just Eat Takeaway already increasing prices on menus and charging extra fees, customers are starting to find grocery shopping and takeout solutions more attractive.
While the future may not look good for delivery services, that's not to say chicken wings won't make a comeback in the future. According to Tom Super, Senior Vice President of Communications at the National Chicken Council, America always gets its appetite back for chicken wings.
"[As] long as people are sitting around watching TV and maybe drinking a beer, wings will remain in the game," he said.
Before you grab to go, check out the 4 Most Overpriced Fast-Food Chains, According to Customers.