With the Superbowl coming up this Sunday, I thought I’d take a quick look at whether this annual event has much effect on the market for a food it has come to be closely associated with: chicken wings.
I turned to USDA data compiled by the Livestock Marketing Information Center, which reports weekly prices on whole wings going back to 1992. Here is the price trend in nominal terms. There has been a strong upward trend in chicken wing prices over this time period, but of course some of that is due to inflation. However, even after adjusting for inflation, wings were about $0.90/lb in the early 1990s ($0.50/lb in nominal terms), and they averaged about $1.50/lb in 2018; during the latter part of 2018, prices were above $2.00/lb.
In the graph above, it’s hard to make out when, exactly, the Superbowl occurred. Looking at the history of the event over this time period, the Superbowl occurred in late January or early February every year since 1992. With that knowledge, I added orange lines to the graph to indicate the periods surrounding the Superbowl.
It sure looks like there is a price spike right around the time of the Superbowl each year, with a price decline immediately following. Indeed, if I look at the most recent decade, prices rise about 7% from early January to the Superbowl period (late January, early February), and then fall about 5% going in to mid- to late-February.
The price spikes are indicative of increasing demand over this time period. This is also consistent with data we collected in the monthly Food Demand Survey, were we often found a spike in consumer willingness-to-pay around the event.
Too bad I don’t have data on napkins and antacids …
P.S. One might wonder why this price phenomenon is different than that for turkeys. As I discussed back in November, turkey prices tend to fall around Thanksgiving when demand is peaking, perhaps due to strategic pricing behavior by retailers or from producers planning ahead and increasing supply around this time. A key difference with turkeys and wings, is that one is a whole and the other is a part. If there isn’t an overall demand increase for chicken around the Superbowl, then the wings will be in relatively short supply. It might make sense for a turkey producer to grown a whole bird in anticipation of the holidays, but it’s not possible for a producer to only grown wings in anticipation of the Superbowl.