Chicken products are among the fastest-growing food choice in restaurants for the year ended in June, according to NPD Group data reported in Nation’s Restaurant News. Chicken nuggets topped the list with a 5 percent gain.  Consumers ordered 102.8 million more servings of nuggets.  Pizza was the second-fastest growing food.  Consumers ordered 100.9 million more servings, an increase of 2 percent.  Breakfast sandwiches were the third-fastest growing food, with consumers ordering 75.9 million more servings–also an increase of 2 percent.  Other chicken products making the list included chicken strips and breaded-chicken sandwiches.  There were 53.8 million more servings of chicken strips in the year, an increase of 5 percent, and 44.4 million more servings of breaded-chicken sandwiches, an increase of 2 percent.

Barbecue sandwiches increased 15 percent, although its importance on most menus is small, the report noted.  Nonetheless, the increased interest in various products is not just driving incremental servings, but also traffic, NPD found.  For the year ending in June, breakfast traffic increased 1 percent.  Behind the breakfast purchases are older adults, whether they are employed or not.  In addition, dinner traffic, which has long been negative, was up 1 percent.  The return of families and parties with kids is giving this dinner a lift.

The absence of beef from the list is notable, but it is not surprising, NPD said.  Historically, when beef prices rise, restaurant operations shift their focus to promoting and advertising lower-priced proteins.  While increased beef prices are certainly significant in affecting menu trends, successful promotions are also driving consumers to order the top foods over other options, NPD explained.