Soaring chicken wing prices are giving fast-food companies heartburn. According to a report by TheStreet.com, analysts at BMO Capital Markets recorded an 11 percent increase in chicken wing prices last week compared to the same period last year, making it the largest jump in the past four months.
The National Chicken Council predicted that on Super Bowl Day alone, Americans were expected to consume 166.3 million pounds or 1.33 billion chicken wings. Almost 75 percent of that demand was expected to be fulfilled by restaurants or food service outlets. Chicken wing consumption usually spikes in February during the Super Bowl and continues to remain robust through March Madness, after which it begins to cool off. But this year it is bucking the trend. BMO suggests that instead of falling, chicken wing prices have gone up instead.
"In fact, wing prices this week reached the highest level since early-to-mid February around the Superbowl and marks the highest April wing prices in at least the past 15-20 years, based on our data," said the analysts in their report, according to TheStreet, and further predicted inflation to expand by 400-500 basis points over coming weeks.
The Sky Is Falling
Higher prices are hurting most fast-food chains. On their earnings call last week, Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) CEO Sally Smith admitted that wing prices had dented earnings and that the pain was far from over.
“The successful promotion of Half-Price Wing Tuesdays put pressure on our cost of sales as wing prices remained stubbornly high and we're experiencing a lower yield on wings as well. The increase in promotional mix, wing prices and yield had a $0.37 impact on EPS from increased cost of sales. When Half-Price Wing Tuesdays was developed last summer, wings were $1.70 and external commodity experts were anticipating a 10% decline in wing prices in 2017. Today wing prices remain elevated and we're increasing our wing price forecast to include an 8 percent to 10 percent increase over 2016,” said Smith.
Wingstop Inc. (WING) did the math in their 2016 annual report. As the price per pound for chicken wings increased, the company estimated that it adjusted by increasing its own prices by close to 4 percent in 2016. But, in the event that prices go higher and it is unable to pass the increase to the consumer, it will take a hit.
“For example, bone-in chicken wings accounted for approximately 29 percent of our costs of sales in fiscal 2016 and 2015. A hypothetical 10 percent increase in the bone-in chicken wing costs for fiscal 2016 would have increased cost of sales by approximately $0.7 million for fiscal 2016,” according to the report.
While that increase in the cost of sales may not seem significant, it is almost 4.5 percent of the $15.4 million net income the company earned for the 2016 fiscal year.
Prices Too Hot to Handle
Chicken prices in general have been on the rise. USDA data collected by IndexMundi shows that in the last six months alone, chicken prices have risen more than 12.5 percent. That means other chains are also feeling the heat.
Yum Brands (YUM) is the parent company for both KFC and Pizza Hut. KFC sells a wide variety of chicken through more than 20,000 outlets across the globe while more than 5,900 outlets of Pizza Hut offer wings under the WingStreet brand, according to the company’s latest annual report.