One of the most versatile and marketable products in retail foodservice has also become the No. 1 convenience item consumers are choosing in their quest for meat and poultry products.
A recent study by the National Chicken Council (NCC) shows that U.S. consumers consider chicken to be the most widely available convenience food product, as well as the item they’ll most likely purchase more of in the coming months.
And as shoppers brace for what’s expected to be a continuation of inflation in 2008, they’re seeking higher quality products at better prices. Chicken, it seems, could fit that bill.
The NCC study zeroed in on the meat and poultry category and asked consumers which product they’d like to see the most of in the market, given the options of chicken, beef, fish/seafood, turkey and pork. Chicken bested the other birds and beasts, pulling in 29% of those survey responants. The fish/seafood category was second with 27%, followed by beef (23%), turkey (12%) and pork (8%). Notably, female respondents were more likely to desire more chicken products than men (33% compared to 24%).
Consumers overwhelmingly said chicken is the most widely available food product— 57% believed it’s the meat and poultry item with the widest variety of "convenience" products, followed by beef (22%), fish/seafood (11%), turkey (6%) and pork (3%). When asked which product they’d be most likely to purchase the most of in the next six months, 25% of the NCC survey respondents chose chicken, while beef, fish/seafood and turkey each had 15% of respondents.
"Women are more interested in seeing more chicken products than men, who lean towards beef," said Richard Lobb, NCC’s director of communications.
"Simply put, the data shows that chicken is No. 1 with a bullet among meat and poultry convenience items," Lobb said. "Consumers see chicken as the runaway leader in the category, plan to buy even more chicken items than they already do, and would like to see more chicken-based convenience products available for purchase."
Variations on chicken sandwiches are among the fastest-growing food offerings at American eateries, according to research by Chicago-based NPD Group Inc. and Dataessential, whose research showed that chicken consumption overall was up 8% this past year, as Americans gobbled up a staggering 3.7 billion servings of chicken sandwiches.
Compared to a year ago, health and wellness items offering various claims such as absence of specific fat, organic, fiber supplements, hormone- or antibiotic-free and the like all saw double-digit sales increases, NACS data showed. The four-year trend was even more telling: Products claiming an absence of specific fat, for instance, saw a 148% increase in the past four years, organics saw a 142% increase, while probiotics, products containing beneficial bacteria or yeasts, saw a 246% increase.
Upscale chicken items on the menu are also seeing gains, such as unique cheeses and breads and other fancy helpings paired with chicken, NPD research showed. Offerings of chicken panini sandwiches, for example, are up 35% since 2006, while the percent of restaurants offering sauces like pesto and chipotle is also increasing.