When was the last time you ordered some chicken nuggets? If you’re like many Americans, it may have been a while. Sales of chicken nuggets have been going down, according to the NPD Group. In the quarter that ended in September 2018, the number of servings of chicken nuggets sold declined by three percent.
Why? Long a staple of families with fussy eaters, chicken nuggets are now appearing less and less on menus. The reason may be a combination of three things, according to CNBC: health concerns about processed meat, media attention and new competition.
Yes, that’s right. Consumption of chicken strips—widely viewed as a more grown-up and healthful choice than chicken nuggets—is on the rise. In the same quarter that nugget sales went down, sales of chicken strips increased by 16 percent.
Does that mean people are trading their nuggets for strips? Not exactly. The nugget-making process was in the spotlight a few years ago when footage that alleged McDonald’s made their nuggets with pink slime, or beef trimmings treated with ammonia, went viral.
And customers are willing to pay a little more for chicken strips, CNBC reports. That means a higher margin for restaurants that serve them.
“Chicken strips have long been a consumer favorite, but when you take something that consumers already love and deliver value, or elevate the form as some fast-casual concepts have, you have a strong platform for growth,” says David Portalatin, a national analyst for the NPD Group.
That said, chicken nuggets aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon. Americans still ordered 2.3 billion servings of nuggets in restaurants in the year that ended in September 2018. Meanwhile, they ordered 1.5 billion servings of chicken strips during the same time frame. But did you know that McDonald’s chicken nuggets only come in four shapes?