Super Bowl food prices: Wings are cheaper, but guacamole will cost you

Super Bowl Sunday is one of the country's major 'food holidays,' second only to Thanksgiving. This year, hungry Super Bowl viewers can expect lower food prices on Buffalo wings, but pizza, avocados, and chocolate will be more expensive. 

Americans are expected to eat 100 million pounds of avocados during Super Bowl Sunday, and increased demand has sent avocado and guacamole prices soaring.

With the Super Bowl just days away, party planners across the country are heading to the grocery store and placing orders to stock up on pizza, nachos, wings, and everything else needed for a proper Super Bowl viewing party. An estimated 181 million viewers are expected to watch the Seattle Seahawks take on the Denver Broncos this year, and nearly 62 million are expected to attend a party, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF).

And they will be hungry. Though it is not an official holiday (yet), the amount of food Americans consume on Super Bowl Sunday is second only to Thanksgiving. But hosts, take note: the cost of feeding the many guests nestled on and around your couch will be quite different from last year. Food prices for Super Bowl staples are fluctuating, and that's both good and bad news for your wallet.

First, the good news: Buffalo wings will be much cheaper. Thanks to a confluence of factors including changing farming practices and high demand from restaurant chains (exacerbated by a chicken wing menu addition from McDonald’s), prices for the savory snack surged at the beginning of 2013. The issue threatened to reach crisis levels when the National Chicken Council warned of a possible wing shortage for Super Bowl weekend.

There was no shortage, of course, and prices have settled down in 2014. “Wings are down about 23 percent from last year,” says Bruce Reinstein, vice president of strategic development and sourcing for Consolidated Concepts, based in Boston.

Part of the reason: last year’s surge prompted many restaurants to adjust their menus a bit. Chicken chains, including major players like KFC, started offering boneless tenders alongside regular wings. “Now that means there are plenty of wings, because boneless wings are made up of chicken breasts,” says Mr. Reinstein, whose firm works with food service chains to help them plan out their supply purchases. “Now, that means breast meat is going up. It’s a complete change in terms of what people are eating as far as chicken goes.”

Potatoes are also cheaper this year, edging down between 1 and 5 percent.

Now the bad news: Guacamole, pizza, and chocolate are getting pricier. Avocados have soared since last year, due to higher demand and crop freezes in Florida and northern Mexico. Guacamole prices are projected to be up between 5 and 10 percent, according to Consolidated Concepts. “Ingredients going into salsas, peppers, tomatoes are up,” as well, Reinstein says.

Americans will consume an estimated 100 million pounds of avocados this year, according to the Hass Avocado Board.

Pizza will also be more expensive, thanks to higher cheese prices. Mozzarella in particular is up 10 percent thanks to bigger purchasing orders from major chains like Pizza Hut and Domino’s. “Your cheddars, your Americans, they’re up 10 to 20 percent too,” Reinstein says.

Cheese shouldn’t go too high in the long run, however, as the US House of Representatives just passed a farm bill that would continue subsidies to US farmers and keep dairy prices in check. And cocoa? It’s up 20 percent since January, which will nudge up the price of baked goods.

So, to recap: Your cheapest Super Bowl party will involve mostly chicken and potato chips, or you can live a little and break out the pizza, supreme nachos, and brownies. 

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