Sanderson Farms: NFL Player Protests Hurting Sales

First a pizza maker complained and now the NFL is hearing about poor sales from another favorite during football games – chicken wings.

A drop in prices of chicken wings has Sanderson Farms, Inc. one of the biggest producers of poultry in the nation, wondering if the controversy with player protests in the NFL may be the reason.

CEO of Sanderson, Joe Sanderson Jr. said during a conference call on Thursday to discuss company earnings that the only thing puzzling him was wings.

He added that it was just reported to his office that some of their customers believe traffic is down because of the NFL players that have been protesting during the playing of the national anthem.

For much of this year, wings have enjoyed a strong year, boosting the profits at Sanderson and other processors. However, spot prices dropped in each of the past three months and now sit 14% lower than at this same time one year ago, according to one measure by the U.S. government.

Amidst the dispute in the NFL, it is not clear where prices will head from this point, said Sanderson Jr.

Food sellers hold differing opinions on the amount of impact the protests by players during the playing of the national anthem have had on their revenue.

In November, Papa John’s Pizza said the protests by players in the NFL had hit pizza sales hard, but Wingstop said it did not see any significant impact from waning viewership of football.

Sanderson shares were down 13% Thursday, the worst drop since August of 2004. The company posted per share earnings that were lower than had been expected during their fourth quarter as the prices of chicken weakened from the rise in production and the disruptions that were hurricane-related.

Sanderson rival Pilgrim’s Pride was down by up to 8.1% during the day, its biggest drop in nearly 13 months, while the largest meat processor in the U.S. Tyson Foods fell just 2.5%.

Demand for wings usually takes a surge during Super Bowl week. Americans were expected to eat more than 1.33 billion during Super Bowl LI last February. Super Bowl LII is scheduled to be played on February 4, 2018

While the easy target is the NFL, in all likelihood that is not the sole cause for the price drop.

Increasing substitution of boneless wings has also cut into demand for chicken wings, said Sanderson.