Archive for May, 2009

Recession Boosts Grocery Store Sales of Chicken, Analyst and Industry Executives Say

May 8, 2009

SAN ANTONIO — May 1, 2009 — The recession is boosting sales of chicken at retail grocery stores as consumers look for value even while they cut back on expenditures at casual dining restaurants, a leading analyst and several top industry executives told a seminar for food writers held here recently.

The amount of chicken sold in larger grocery stores increased about four percent in the year ending in February compared with the previous 12 months, Todd Hale, senior vice president for consumer and shopper insights of the Nielsen Company, told writers at a seminar sponsored by the National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. Turkey saw a three percent volume growth, as did pork, while sales of beef were flat and seafood declined about six percent, he said.

“There’s been pretty good growth on a volume basis for the poultry industry,” Hale said, in breaking down grocery store sales data monitored by Nielsen.

Chicken breasts were the leading item with a five percent growth rate, Hale said, adding that nearly all chicken parts saw sales growth during the past year.

Meanwhile, restaurant sales have dropped 10 percent to 15 percent in response to the recession, said Monty Henderson, president and chief operating officer of George’s, Inc., a chicken company, speaking on a panel of top industry executives. “People are saving money by dining out less,” he said.

Product innovation is important in foodservice, added Bernard Leonard, group vice president/food service of Tyson Foods, as restaurant concepts try to weather the downturn.

“In foodservice, particularly in casual dining, same-store sales are down, and one of the responses we have seen is in innovation,” Leonard said. He said restaurant concepts are launching new appetizers, entrees and other items, sometimes on a value basis, to “pull that traffic in. Innovation is helping them to sustain their business.”

As Hale noted, the picture is brighter at the retail grocery level, said Lampkin Butts, president and chief operating office of Sanderson Farms.

“What we’re seeing at retail is very good demand for chicken products,” he said. Sales of fresh chicken at retail grocery stores in 2008 were up 7.5 percent over the year before, Butts said.

“The other thing we are seeing at retail is substitution,” he added. “Consumers are stretching their food dollar, they are looking for value, and they will substitute lower-priced protein for high-priced beef or high-priced pork.”

Meanwhile, products labeled “organic’’ throughout the grocery store have been hit hard by the recession, Hale said, with monthly sales growth dropping from 24 percent in March 2008 to only one percent in March 2009. The number of products making the “organic” label claim has also dropped, he said.


Kentucky Woman’s Ground-Chicken Burger with Asian Zing Wins $50,000 in National Chicken Cooking Contest

May 3, 2009
Brigitte Nguyen of Lexington, Ky., won first place and $50,000 Saturday in the National Chicken Cooking Contest

Brigitte Nguyen of Lexington, Ky., won first place and $50,000 Saturday in the National Chicken Cooking Contest

SAN ANTONIO — May 2, 2009 — A ground-chicken burger with an Asian flavor zing earned Brigitte Nguyen of Lexington, Kentucky, the top prize of $50,000 in the 48th National Chicken Cooking Contest here Saturday.

Ms. Nguyen, 28, a part-time bookkeeper and a baker at a wine shop and deli in Lexington, topped a field of nine finalists from across the country in a competition sponsored by the National Chicken Council, an industry group, with her “Chinese Chicken Burgers with Rainbow Sesame Slaw.” The event was held at the San Antonio campus of the Culinary Institute of America with members of the Texas Poultry Federation serving as local hosts.

“The burger had a clear Asian flavor profile with zing, some sweetness, and lime and lemongrass notes; it was just delicious,” said Kathy Martin, food editor of the Miami Herald and chairman of a panel of judges drawn from newspapers and magazines. The burger recipe is based on ground chicken and includes soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, lemongrass, and scallions. It is served on a toasted bun and is topped with lime-accented mayonnaise and chile sauce and served with a slaw of julienned peppers, snow peas, and jicama.

A Judge’s Choice award and $10,000 went to Elise Lalor, a travel agent from Issaquah, Washington, for “Butterflied Chicken with Herbs and Sticky Lemon.” Ms. Martin said the dish featured a sweet but spicy sauce, spooned over lemon slices, that caramelized in the oven. She said the chicken was moist throughout. The judges also praised the use of the “butterfly” technique, in which the backbone of a whole chicken is cut out and the chicken is flattened.

“It makes the chicken cook more evenly,” she said. “People are surprised when they learn how easy it is to butterfly a chicken.”

The judges were impressed overall with the entries, Ms. Martin said, especially the spiciness in some of the dishes. “I was surprised at the amount of heat,” she said.

Christine Koury of Woman’s World magazine, also a member of the judging panel, said the entries were a varied and “interesting” group that “really demonstrates the versatility of chicken.”

The National Chicken Cooking Contest dates back to 1949. In recent years, it has been held biennially in chicken-producing states. The National Chicken Council is the trade association for the nation’s chicken companies.

The contestants in San Antonio were selected on a regional basis from 51 winners representing each state and the District of Columbia. Each of the nine finalists received $1,000 for winning her region, and each of the state winners received $100.

More information on the contest is available at