For many American consumers, fall is all about the beginning of football season.

Shoppers will be turning to the deli and prepared foods sections of their local supermarkets for hot food items to enjoy while watching the games and hosting friends. A classic go-to entree for many football fans ⁠— and consumers who just enjoy the season for the food ⁠— is hot chicken wings.

With new hot wing promotions coming up from Oakwood, Ga.-based Wayne-Sanderson Farms, retailers have plenty of options for their hot food bars.

Consumers continue to prove their devotion to wings

Wayne-Sanderson Farms is amping up its production of chicken wings with a new production line that increases capacity by more than 42 million pounds of wings.

This new production line positions the company to be able to keep up with the ever-growing consumer demand for chicken wings.

“Our customers wanted more product because wings are winners on every table,” said Tom Bell, vice president of prepared foods for Wayne Farms. “Practically every restaurant segment ⁠— from quick-serve to fine-dining ⁠— has a wing offering somewhere on their menu. People love wings, and we want our costumers to have those products available.”

“We expect sales to increase as word spreads about our new capability,” said Keri Hart, brand manager of Wayne-Sanderson Farms. “As COVID restrictions ease, out-of-home dining numbers are picking up and America’s love of chicken wings continues to soar.”

According to the company, the average person eats approximately 16 chicken wings per sitting, 290 per year and around 17,000 in a lifetime. On Feb. 13 alone, more than 1.4 billion wings were consumed in the United States this year. Almost 60% of Americans also answered that they wouldn’t mind eating chicken wings for Thanksgiving dinner.

To reassure anyone who fears this is excessive, Wayne-Sanderson Farms noted that nutritionists regard chicken wings as good for overall health. The company said that chicken consumption is reported to boost immune systems; stimulate new growth of cells, connective tissue and cartilage; and aid in battling depression.

Wayne-Sanderson Farms has big plans for wings

With the start of fall and the new football season, Wayne-Sanderson Farms is highlighting its Crispy Fliers, Buffaloos and Flying Saucers.

Bell shared that Wayne-Sanderson Farms is one large retailer’s major supplier, selling it four different types of wings with a variety of flavors. From a dollar perspective, Bell said, the retailer’s wing bar is one of the top-performing areas within the total store. This retailer has plans to slowly expand to put a wing bar in every location as it works to acquire the necessary equipment.

Wayne-Sanderson Farms offers retailers a wide variety of wing types. The company’s top seller is the Buffaloos, which are coated with a spicy glazed breading.

Bell explained that while retailers are able to purchase the wings raw if they prefer, Wayne-Sanderson Farms offers the convenience and quality control of a fully cooked product. 

“All they have to do is reheat instore to reduce complexity,” Bell said. “The finished product tends to hold better in the bar and hold moisture better.”

According to Bell, one of the biggest challenges for prepared foods sections is labor, being able to cook the product and keep the product fresh.

Purchasing fully cooked wings make the preparation process as quick and simple as possible, cutting the cook time down in half. It also assures kitchens from a food safety perspective that the chicken is thoroughly cooked. From a cost perspective, buying fully cooked wings helps kitchens cut down oil usage and save money in the long run.

Of the company’s fully cooked products, Bell said that the steamed chicken wing variety of the newest Flying Saucers holds sauce the best. “It has a rice coating that helps hold the sauce after cooking and allows the retailer to change up the sauce profile,” he said.

With the ability to mix up the sauces on the steamed wings, Bell said that retailers can offer five to six different products with one SKU, making inventory significantly easier for store managers.

The Flying Saucers are also available roasted and are unique in being consistently sized to make portion control easier.

The Crispy Fliers are seeing success due to their ability to stay crispy while sitting on the wing bar or in grab-and-go displays. Crispy Fliers are available in both mild and spicy flavors.

Bell mentioned that Wayne-Sanderson Farms is also in the process of developing a new honey product.

Branding and packaging hot wings

For retail foodservice managers, two things that stay top-of-mind are packaging and branding.

With e-commerce and grab-and-go offerings, Bell said that delis need to be prepared to package hot food bar items in a way that holds the product in the best possible shape and keeps the food hot and fresh.

“I particularly like foil bags for wings,” Bell said, though he pointed out that foil bags can be more difficult for supermarket systems since everything has to be labeled to be scanned.

As for branding, Bell said that having a manufacturer such as Wayne-Sanderson Fars helps retailers build a customer base.

“As a manufacturer, we can help them brand the products to consumers without them spending a lot of money on their own brands,” Bell said. “We can ensure consistency about food quality and information to the consumer.”

Wayne-Sanderson Farms offers retailers many branding pieces including countertop displays and window clings for the hot food bar sneeze guards. For any of these branding items, retailers can request customization.

“We’d love to continue to expand our brands and have them merchandise them,” Bell said.