Are you ready for some football?
If last year is any indication, this year’s Super Bowl scheduled for Sunday, February 11, in Las Vegas is likely to be a blockbuster. Approximately 200 million Americans viewed some or all of the big game in 2023, and there is good reason to believe that this year’s matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs will equal or surpass that figure.
January’s playoff games have been ratings bonanzas, social media around the NFL has been on fire all season (thank you, Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce) and, three years removed from the pandemic, fans are once again gathering in large groups at home to enjoy the game, the food and drink and, of course, the commercials.
The latest consumer spending data from the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics’ 2024 Super Bowl survey found that a record 200.5 million U.S. adults plan to tune in to the big game — more than 60% of the U.S. population.
“It’s an American holiday,” says Andy Keenan, executive vice president, Advantage Solutions, a leading provider of sales and marketing services to consumer goods manufacturers and retailers. “The Super Bowl is like a second Thanksgiving, where people gather in huge numbers and it’s all about food, family, friends and football.”
As a special occasion, the Super Bowl is also fairly inflation-proof. The NRF Super Bowl survey says 112.2 million people plan to throw or attend a party, and another 16.2 million plan to watch the game at a bar or restaurant. Total spending on food, drinks, apparel, decorations and other purchases for the day is expected to reach a record $17.3 billion, or $86.04 per person. Food and drink account for approximately 80% of that total spend.
And that means opportunity for grocery retailers. Now that the teams have been finalized, Americans are putting their game plans into high gear. Retailers are responding with sales, promotions and massive displays of the products fans want most — beer, soft drinks, salty snacks, frozen appetizers and more. As the big game approaches, grocers expect to see a spike in perishable items such as prepared foods, meats and cold cuts, salads, cheeses and dips, and avocadoes for that homemade guac — the avocado industry reports that 20% of its annual sales take place during Super Bowl weekend.
Retailers will also be turning to in-store events and sampling to build excitement. “Sampling is critical to a retailer’s Super Bowl plan,” says Amy Lang, executive vice president of Club Demonstration Services, a business unit of Advantage Solutions. “It’s an opportunity to remind shoppers of an upcoming event that they’ll likely be either hosting or attending — and they’ll need food items beyond their regular shopping list. In-store events create anticipation for the Super Bowl and can influence both stock-up behavior and new product trial.”
Lang says there will be high demand from suppliers looking to connect their products with consumers in-store in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. “These are manufacturers who want to associate their products with game-day entertainment and be a part of the football occasion,” she explains. Prime examples include chips and salsa, crackers and dips, frozen pizza and prepared deli items like chicken wings and chili.
Savvy shoppers are also looking to private brands to stock their parties, according to Jean Ryan, vice president strategic advisory at Daymon, an Advantage company. “With 92% of consumers trusting private brands just as much or more than national brands, and snacks and appetizers two of the most important components to a successful Super Bowl party, these are key categories where retailers can promote private brands,” she says.
What’s on the menu?
Whether they come prepared from a supermarket or restaurant, or from the meat department to prepare at home, wings are the thing. Last year, Americans consumed more than 1.45 billion chicken wings during Super Bowl LVII weekend, according to the National Chicken Council — enough to give four wings each to every man, woman and child in the United States. That’s a lot of wings.
“Prices may fluctuate, and there’s always supply chain issues, but Americans love their wings and will bite the bullet to include them on the Super Bowl menu,” says Gil Phipps, Advantage senior vice president of client services. “Chicken wings are always in a supply chain challenge and always will be until we figure out a way to get chickens to grow more wings. It’s ironic because originally it was considered a spare part, which is why it became popular — because they were so inexpensive. And now it’s by pound the most expensive part of the bird.”
As of January 19, according to USDA data, the going advertised rate in supermarkets for whole wings was $2.76 per pound, slightly up from last year’s $2.62 per pound — but a far cry from the $3 and more per pound during the height of the pandemic and mass supply chain shortages in 2021 and 2022, when far fewer people were hosting events at home. Expect to see chicken wings front and center at this year’s Super Bowl parties.
Americans have also been expanding their Super Bowl Sunday spreads beyond the ubiquitous chicken wing, says Keenan.
“Prepared foods will continue to be huge and a likely choice for many, but people will also be more adventurous in the food they offer because it’s fun. Recipes and fresh ideas will continue to be big, thanks to social media. That means appetizers, charcuterie boards, veggie trays, homemade guacamole — things you can present on the kitchen counter in addition to the traditional foods you might offer.”
As for the snacks that fans will munch on all day, Keenan says family and party sizes are ideal, and consumers should be on the lookout for pricing and promotions for sweet and salty snacks, such as buy one, get one free, and bulk deals as a volume grab up to a week before the game. More healthy snacking options are also trending. Think low-fat, low-salt, low-carb, gluten-free etc.
Care for a drink?
According to December data from online alcohol delivery platform Drizly (recently shut down by parent company Uber), while the Super Bowl is always a significant winter sales occasion for adult beverages, the impact could be even bigger this year. Ratings for in-season games have hit record highs, showing increased consumer interest in the NFL coupled with preferences for gathering at home rather than at bars or in restaurants.
These trends suggest Super Bowl LVIII could be a bonanza for off-premise beverage sales, which is good news for grocers and other retailers.
While beer has traditionally been the Super Bowl beverage of choice, this year we can expect to see more options in the adult beverage category, running the gamut from low- and no-alcohol beer and hop waters to canned cocktails and seltzers.
“Obviously it’s a big adult beverage weekend, but at the same time, there’s such a strong trend for new beverages including non-alcoholic hop waters and the like,” says Phipps. “They offer a lot of flavor, a little bit of hoppiness, but you can keep your head and even remember who won the game.”
Despite the expected rise in alternative adult beverages this year, Phipps remains confident in traditional beer sales at retail this Super Bowl.
“I have a funny feeling they’re gonna sell plenty of beer,” he says.