July 6, 2021
Since first recorded in cookbooks in the mid-1800s, Americans have a long love affair with fried chicken. The National Chicken Council, which predicted Americans would devour a record 1.42 billion wings on Super Bowl Sunday alone, estimates consumers will chow down on an average of 97.8 pounds of chicken per person in 2021. While not all poultry will be prepared by immersing in hot oil, frying remains a favorite.
With National Fried Chicken Day observed annually on July 6, let’s look at some of the leading purveyors of this crispy, crunchy American staple.
Whether you prefer Original, Extra Crispy or Spicy, Kentucky Fried Chicken has you covered. This Yum! Brands, Inc. (Tii:YUM) subsidiary is the world’s second-largest restaurant chain – and it’s getting larger. Citing continued growth (KFC opened 409 gross new restaurants in 50 countries this year), the fried chicken chain hopes to hire 20,000 permanent full-time and part-time company and franchisee restaurant positions across the nation. Worldwide system sales (excluding foreign currency translation) grew 11%. Founded by Harland Sanders (the Colonel was an honorary title bestowed upon him) in Corbin, Kentucky, in the early 1930s, KFC consists of more than 25,292 restaurants worldwide.
With more than 1,500 locations worldwide, Wingstop Inc. (Tii:WING) specializes in cooked-to-order wings, hand-sauced-and-tossed and available in 11 signature flavors that include Lemon Pepper, Original Hot, Hickory Smoked BBQ, Atomic, Mango Habanero, Cajun and more. The restaurant chain, whose system-wide sales for its first quarter ended March 27, 2021, increased 30% to $558.9 million, recently announced plans to expand and develop 100 Wingstop locations across Canada in the next ten years, with the first set to open in Toronto.
Founded in 1972, Popeyes now boasts more than 3,100 locations around the world. A Restaurant Brands International Inc. (Tii:QSR) brand, the Cajun and Creole-inspired restaurant chain made headlines globally when it marketed its chicken sandwich introduction in 2019. The campaign was so successful that it led to a 103% increase in traffic days after the launch, product shortages, and even fights between consumers trying to purchase the dwindling supply. Popeyes is looking to expand its Louisiana flavors overseas, with plans to add more than 1,000 restaurants over ten years across the UK, India, Mexico and Saudi Arabia.
Starting out as a humble hot dog cart in New York City’s Madison Square Park in the early 2000s, Shake Shack Inc. (Tii:SHAK) operates approximately 330 locations in the U.S. and globally. The restaurant, which has locations in London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, the Philippines, Mexico, Istanbul, Dubai, Tokyo, and Seoul, plans to open 10 Shacks in China by 2031. Though primarily known for its Angus beef burgers, Shake Shack offers the Chick’n Shack (a crispy chicken breast topped with lettuce, pickles, buttermilk herb mayo) and Chick’n Bites (crispy white meat bites served with honey mustard or BBQ sauce).
For those who prefer to purchase prepared chicken at the grocery store to eat at their convenience, Tyson Foods, Inc. (Tii:TSN) has a broad range of frozen chicken nuggets, breast strips, fillets, chicken strips, and patties. With flavors that include Buffalo Style, Honey BBQ, Southern Style, Parmesan Herb, Honey Battered, Gluten-Free and more, Tyson is a leading provider of prepared fried chicken. Though chicken sales volume decreased during the second quarter and first six months of fiscal 2021 due to lower production throughput associated with the pandemic, disruptions due to severe winter weather and other factors, the poultry provider reported a 68% rise in adjusted EPS for its second quarter.
Chicken began its upward trend in popularity starting in the 1940s and overtook pork in 1996 as the second most consumed meat. Despite the popularity of the good old American hamburger, chicken has even surpassed beef as the most consumed meat in the USA. So as you chow down on the crispy, golden poultry, take a look at some of the brands benefiting from this popular protein.