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    Chicken Sandwiches Gain on Burger's Popularity

    Servings have grown an average of 3 percent over the past four years.

    CHICAGO — The hamburger has been the staple of quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and other foodservice outlets for years, but it's getting some company. 

    According to The NPD Group, servings of breaded chicken sandwiches have grown an average of 3 percent over the past four years. In the year ended July 2014, 2.4 billion breaded chicken sandwiches were ordered at U.S. restaurants and commercial foodservice outlets. 

    As far as breading types, units of whole grain breaded chicken shipped from foodservice distributors to restaurants and other outlets increased by triple digits, according to NPD's SupplyTrack.

    The global information and advisory services firm also found that midscale/family-dining restaurant customers ordered breaded chicken sandwiches 4 percent more this year than last year. QSRs saw a 3-percent increase in servings, and independent restaurants grew servings by 2 percent.

    Non-commercial foodservice, like hospitals, schools and workplace cafeterias, served 5 percent more breaded chicken sandwiches in the same period, NPD reported.  

    "Among the factors driving the increase in breaded chicken sandwich orders from a consumer standpoint is the perception of chicken — breaded or not — being a better-for-you option, and the availability of new types of breading, like whole grain," said Annie Roberts, vice president of NPD SupplyTrack. "On the operations end, chicken and chicken sandwich restaurant concepts have expanded units and more restaurants and non-commercial foodservice outlets, like schools and hospitals, are serving breaded chicken sandwiches."

    However, this does not mean that consumers have turned their backs on hamburgers. According to NPD, the burgers category is still at the top and growing, with 9 billion servings ordered at foodservice outlets in the year ended July 2014, a 3-percent increase year over year.

    From the supply end of the equation, units and pounds of ground beef patties shipped from distributors to foodservice outlets increased by 1 percent, according to NPD's SupplyTrack, a monthly tracking service that codes, aggregates and tracks every product shipped from a critical mass of major broadline distributors to each of their foodservice operators.

    "Whether it's breaded chicken sandwiches or burgers, these are huge categories that foodservice distributors, manufacturers and operators can look at in a variety of different ways," Roberts said. "However, a key aspect of identifying growth opportunities with these categories is understanding consumer demand."

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