Tom Brady’s retirement isn’t the only big news from the NFL—and we’re not talking about the will-he-won’t-he retirement of Rob Gronkowski, either. There’s just over a week to go before Super Bowl LVI kicks off at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. Whether you watch it for the football, to cringe at the commercials, or to lose it over this year’s incredible-sounding halftime show, you’re probably going to get your snack on.
Chicken wings have historically been a huge part of big game viewing parties. According to the National Chicken Council, Americans ate a record 1.42 billion wings over Super Bowl weekend last year. That’s a sobering number of hens for just one event. But, this year, those who want to avoid conventional meat can find vegan chicken wings at Walmart, the world’s largest retailer.
Germany’s LikeMeat (which is owned by LIVEKINDLY’s parent company, The LIVEKINDLY Collective) announced this week that its Like Chick’n Wings are now available in the frozen aisle at more than 3,600 Walmart stores nationwide. The boneless, meatless wings are made from soy protein and come in a one-pound bag that includes a bag of Buffalo sauce for dipping.
“We’re so excited to be partnering with Walmart; we’re in it to wing it! And the timing couldn’t be better for us. During last year’s big game, nearly 1.4 billion wings were consumed,” says Emily Klooster, VP of Marketing LikeMeat at LIVEKINDLY Collective. “We want to enlist Americans this year to make their game-day snacking plant-based without compromising on flavor—and having our delicious, party-ready Like Chick’n Wings available at a major retailer nationwide is the best way to accomplish our goal.”
Vegan chicken wings go mainstream
The Collective estimates that 10 million of LikeMeat’s vegan chicken wings will be consumed over Super Bowl weekend—an admittedly small number compared to 1.42 billion, but it’s a number that’s likely to grow in the coming years.
As more consumers dabble with flexitarianism, the $1.4 billion U.S. plant-based meat market has diversified beyond the burger. Chicken, in particular, is becoming big, which should come as no surprise. While the hamburger is iconically American, poultry is the most popular meat in the country, according to USDA data.
Plant-based chicken’s courtship of the non-vegetarian consumer is already well underway. KFC recently launched vegan chicken nuggets nationwide in partnership with Beyond Meat, albeit to mixed reviews. Last year, Impossible Foods trialed soy-based chicken at Burger King and launched frozen nuggets in retail. Several international brands, LikeMeat included, are expanding into the U.S. market. And plant-based chicken startups are attracting capital from famous people including Jay-Z, Naomi Osaka, Steve Aoki, Alexis Ohanian, and others.
But could one product compel tens of millions of Super Bowl viewers to opt for plant-based wings? It’s perhaps not as radical as it sounds. Walmart is the country’s largest retailer and it’s also the most accessible—namely to parts of the country with a lack of access to plant-based foods found at specialty markets or higher-end supermarkets. (According to the company, 90 percent of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a store.)
Not only that but also Walmart’s options come at a lower price-point compared to other chains. Price parity with animal-based protein is a goal, and also a major hurdle, for the plant-based food industry—from a flexitarian perspective, why spend $15 on a pack of Impossible Burger grounds (about the price it fetches at my local organic grocery store) when a pound of beef costs around $6? For many, it’s been proven that flavor and familiarity are crucial. And it has to come at a good price point. According to data from market research from Moonshot Collaborative, more than half of consumers don’t buy plant-based foods because of the cost and 66 percent of people who do buy them said the price prevents them from purchasing more.
LikeMeat’s vegan chicken wings are now available at Walmart stores nationwide.