Something To Cluck About
Amid an abundance of supply, chicken companies are not coming up short.
The chicken industry has been taking the good with the not-as-good recently.
On the positive side, per capita consumption continues to escalate, continuing a generation-long trend. “We expect that consumption of chicken in the United States this year will hit 88.2 pounds per person, up about one pound from 2005,” reports Richard L. Lobb, director of communications for the Washington, D.C.-based National Chicken Council (NCC). Moreover, according to an NCC survey conducted last year, more than 90 percent of adult American consumers eat chicken at least once in a given two-week period, up from 86 percent in 2001.
On the less rosy side, the oversupply of chicken in the U.S. has continued to affect processors, many of whom have been grappling with lower margins due to falling prices.
Dan Emery, vice president of marketing Pilgrim’s Pride, Inc., agrees that it’s been somewhat of a topsy-turvy ride. “I would say this year has obviously been a challenge, because there are things beyond our control that affect supply and demand, as well as our ability to reach export markets,” he says.
One way to combat economic situations, of course, is to boost demand. To that end, chicken processors are not only working to encourage purchases through traditional advertising and promotional programs, but are devising products that fit into buyers’ often specific needs.
As Emery points out, that increasingly requires more tailored efforts across the board. “As a marketer, things are fragmented — you have more offerings for older people and other groups like Gen X and Gen Y, Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans and singles,” he says. “And from a media standpoint, you used to spend your money on three networks, and now you have six big channels, cable, the Internet and lots of entertainment formats.”
As pioneers of value-added products, chicken companies continue to provide customers with offerings that are quick, convenient and flavorful for their lifestyles. “We are always pushing the envelope in product development for our customers and our Pilgrim’s Pride-branded products,” notes Emery.
Tyson Foods, Inc. is also keeping its test kitchens and product-rollout teams hustling. Heeding demands for products that are minimally processed and convenient, Tyson recently introduced three new items: a new 100% All Natural Marinated Fresh Chicken containing no artificial ingredients, a new line of Trimmed and Ready™ fresh chicken and individually wrapped boneless, skinless chicken breasts. All of the products were supported through a “Powered by Tyson™” comprehensive marketing program.
In addition to the nation’s largest chicken companies, many other chicken companies have enhanced their fresh product lines over the past year, along with their offerings in the prepared foods, sausage and deli segments. Again, much of the activity has centered on value-added formats, flavor profiles and to a lesser extent, natural and organic options.
In foodservice, applications continue as well.
“We are very pleased with the continued growth of chicken choices at fast-food and casual-dining restaurants,” says Lobb, underscoring the fact that that fast-food giant McDonald’s recently unveiled a new Snack Wrap and Asian salad featuring chicken. “It is interesting to note that as McDonald’s and other quick-service companies continue to diversify their menus to appeal to broader audiences, they rely more and more on chicken — which is quite all right with us.” NP
Annual Broiler Forecasts
 200220032004200520062007
Production (millions lb.)32,24032,74934,06335,36535,98736,575
Per capita consumption (retail lb.)80.581.684.385.887.0 87.0
Exports (millions lb.)4,8074,9204,7685,1475,5035,595
*Per capita meat consumption data are revised, incorporating a new population series from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis based on the 2000 Census.
Source: World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates and Supporting Materials
Published in Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, www.ers.usda.gov/publications/ldp