Chicken prices are finally falling and it's triggering a resurgence of fast-food chicken sandwich wars
- Chicken breast and wing prices are decreasing from inflation heights.
- Popeyes, Wingstop, Burger King, and Wendy's all recently added new chicken sandwiches to menus.
Chicken prices are finally falling, and it's good news for fast food chains.
Chicken breast prices in the US are down 70% from their peak in June, The Wall Street Journal reported, while thighs and wings are also down. Despite the recent decrease, chicken was still elevated by about 15% over October 2021, according to BLS data.
In 2021, some experts predicted fast food chains would start using cheaper dark meat, but now white meat is back with a slate of new sandwiches and menu items.
Fast food chains are taking advantage of the pricing relief with new menu items and deals. On November 15, Popeyes released its new Blackened Chicken Sandwich, which is not breaded and is seasoned with Cajun and Creole spices. The sandwich chain is explicitly promoting the new sandwich as "reigniting the chicken sandwich wars," which started with the 2019 release of the Popeyes spicy chicken sandwich. The chain further took advantage of reduced chicken prices with a BOGO chicken sandwich deal over Black Friday weekend.
Popeyes sales exploded during earlier iterations of the sandwich battles, so the chain has good reason to restart the war.
Wingstop got in on the battle with its own chicken sandwich launch in August, where "incredible demand" led to a four-week supply selling out in six days, CEO Michael Skipworth said in an October earnings call. The chain relaunched the sandwich again in October. The chain said its chicken wing costs were down 43% in the third quarter over the same period in 2021.
Chicken value meal investments were up 160% in July through September 2022 over 2021, according to research firm Technomic, and the investment in chicken seems to be paying off. Chicken, including the spicy chicken sandwich and McNuggets, has been a "strong growth driver" for McDonald's, CEO Chris Kempczinski told investors in October.
Burger King's Royal Crispy Chicken has also been "driving strong volumes" with new and returning customers, Restaurant Brands International CEO Jose Cil said in a November earnings call. Later that month, the chain announced a new Italian version of the sandwich with mozzarella and marinara sauce. That same week, Wendy's launched a similar Italian Mozzarella Chicken sandwich.
Chicken prices jumped as demand and supply were pulled in opposite directions in 2020 and 2021. Chicken consumption was up as major winter storms disrupted farms in Texas, and a labor shortage reduced the capacity of those farms to process birds and send them to buyers.
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