Deli departments have become the MVPs of the supermarket industry’s Super Bowl team.
They have honed their prepared-foods skills sharply in recent years to produce restaurant-quality fare that will help them compete for a share of the $14.1 billion in spending that the National Retail Federation predicts will be associated with this year’s big game.
If the deli is the MVP, then chicken wings — marinated in a variety of on-trend sauces and often served with a selection of dips and veggie strips — have become the most reliable go-to play for food retailers, alongside subs, pizzas and party platters.
According to the National Chicken Council's 2017 Wing report, Americans will eat an estimated 1.33 billion wings on Super Bowl Sunday, up 2% over a year ago and up 6.5% over 2015. About 25% of those wings will be purchased at supermarkets.
“In the two weeks leading up to Sunday’s game, Stop & Shop will sell more than one million chicken wings,” said Philip Tracey, a spokesman for the New England division of Stop & Shop.
The Ahold Delhaize-owned chain’s New England division is the official supermarket of the American Football Conference champion New England Patriots, who face off against the National Football Conference champion Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Stop & Shop’s delis, like those of supermarket retailers across the country, are offering an array of deli meat and cheese platters, sandwich platters, appetizer platters and tailored deli orders, said Tracey. Rotisserie chickens, dips, hummus and party fare such as seafood platters and fresh fruit and vegetable trays are also expected to be invited to the home parties of Super Bowl fans, he said.
Tony Ritondale, deli supervisor at Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace, a six-unit retailer based in Farmingdale, N.Y., said he tries to inject some fun and excitement in the chain’s Super Bowl offerings. All of the chain’s deli platters and cakes are football-shaped, for example.
“Every year we try to do something a little different,” he said, citing two new flavors of chicken wings on the menu this year — sweet chili and a new barbecue variety.
“We’ll sell thousands of pounds of wings,” said Ritondale.
Meanwhile in Atlanta, the Falcons’ official grocer, Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets, is promoting a host of deli-centric Super Bowl party options for its shoppers. The chain, known for its sub sandwiches, is offering a special Atlanta Falcons Sub, made with hot, maple-flavored chicken tenders; bacon; peach preserves; and sriracha mayonnaise.
The retailer’s “Ultimate Tailgate Party” — a season-long initiative that includes recipes, tailgating tips and a Tailgater of the Game contest, also promotes an extensive array of party chicken platters — tenders, popcorn chicken, wings and chicken sampler assortments, all in small, medium and large sizes — among other deli party trays.
At supermarkets around the country, Super Bowl-related promotional activity includes a mix of contests, catering promotions, recipe suggestions, and snack food and beverage tie-ins.
At this Hy-Vee in Lawrence, Kan., the store is hosting a “Sample Bowl” offering tastings and inspiration for Super Bowl party shoppers:
Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle, meanwhile, is promoting its online ordering with curbside pickup for Super Bowl shoppers:
About 80% of consumers polled in the NRF survey who plan to watch the Super Bowl will spend money on food and beverages for the game. Nearly half (45.2%) of consumers said they will either throw a Super Bowl party or attend one.
Still, the NRF’s projected retail spending of $14.1 billion this year would be down from both 2015 and 2016, when the Super Bowl attracted spending of $14.3 billion and a record $15.5 billion, respectively. That jibes with declining viewership overall for the NFL this season.
The NRF’s annual Super Bowl Spending Survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, polled 7,591 consumers, 76% of whom said they planned to watch the game.