4 Small Super Bowl Items With Big Impact

INDIANAPOLIS ( TheStreet) -- Super Bowl Sunday saves the spotlight for pizza, wings, chips and pretzels, but what about the products that make those treats better?

The National Retail Federation predicts Super Bowl-watching consumers will spend $64 apiece preparing for the big game this year. Of that game day spending, more than 69% of it is going toward food and beverages, and nobody's particularly shy about suggesting where that spending should occur.

Papa John's ( PZZA) shells out millions to be the NFL's official pizza sponsor and to hold Super Bowl-tied promotions including a pizza-and-soda wager with America on the outcome of the coin toss. Buffalo Wild Wings' ( BWLD) entire big-beer, big-screen, big-batches-of-wings experience is basically a 364-day pregame for Super Bowl Sunday. Anheuser-Busch InBev ( BUD), meanwhile, seems content to hurl money at Super Bowl broadcasters until fans buy its fizzy yellow beer. Despite A-B spending $239 million on Super Bowl ads within the past year, though, the Beer Institute says the two weeks before the Super Bowl is still only the seventh-most-popular beer-buying period behind the run-ups to Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.

But what about the food industry's unsung heroes -- the companies that make sure those wings have a place to land and that beer drinkers never have to put their lips to a can? The folks who protect your pizza from becoming a cold, folded mess before it gets to your house? The people who turn those bland potato chips into super snack shovels?

We took a look at the most popular Super Bowl products and found four essential accessories or ingredients that not only get overlooked, but bring in a big economic haul of their own:

Hot sauce
Americans are going to eat 1.3 billion chicken wings totaling 100 million pounds on Super Bowl weekend, according to the National Chicken Council.

That's no small gastronomic feat, but it's not exactly a cost-effective one either. The council notes that wing prices are roughly 50% higher around Super Bowl time than they are six months earlier.

Fans are more than willing to shell out, however, when those same wings are slathered in their favorite sauce. French's Foods' Frank's RedHot was the original secret ingredient in Buffalo wings when they were first introduced at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1964 and gets 30% of its sales between the days just before the Super Bowl and the end of college basketball's March Madness.

That amounts to about $150 million in business for Frank's RedHot and its various flavors alone. The folks at Tabasco didn't return requests for comment, but there's millions on the table for their brand, Bruce Foods' Louisiana Hot Sauce, Texas Pete and other hot sauces fortunate enough to combine with butter and soak into a few dozen wings on game day.

Chips and dip
Chips and dip aren't just snacks on Super Bowl Sunday. They're a more-than-half-billion-dollar industry on that day alone.

Americans knock back 166 million pounds of snack foods around the Super Bowl, including potato chips, tortilla chips, corn chips, pretzels, popcorn and nuts, according to Nielsen's ( NLSN) look at what consumers buy in the two weeks before the game. That's $644.7 million in snacks alone. They're not exactly discriminating about where they're bought, either. Doritos, Fritos, Tostitos and other snacks that PepsiCo ( PEP) has paid the better part of $174 million for over the past decade to endorse share the bowl with the 12% of all snacks Nielsen says come in Kroger ( KR), Safeway ( SWY), Supervalu ( SVU) and other store-brand bags.

Dip isn't left out of the picture, with 69% of Americans surveyed by the National Restaurant Association saying it's a must-have item. Products such as Lipton and French's onion soup mixes see sales spike 18% to 20% around Super Bowl time, according to the folks at South Carolina-based supermarket chain Food Lion. Add other stores into the mix and Nielsen says pre-fab dip sales soar 38% from the rest of the year.

Disposable cups and plates
Those wings and snacks need somewhere to go and, on Super Bowl Sunday, it's either go disposable or spend the rest of the night scrubbing sauce off plates or cycling the dishwasher.

The folks at Solo Cup bank on American sloth and pretty much count on it when Super Bowl Sunday comes around. They fill supermarket shelves with heavy-duty plates decorated with a field grid and goalposts and squared plastic cups painted football brown and ribbed with football-style laces along the grips.

"We see the Super Bowl as a culmination of the entire season that started with the first kickoff last fall," a Solo spokesman told us. "Reflecting the growing popularity of football, tailgating and watch parties have grown from simple chips and burgers to much more elaborate events, and single-use products are an important part of that growth."

They're also a huge part of Super Bowl food orders. Solo, Dixie and other brands of plates and plastic utensils find their way into the 48 million deliveries that the National Restaurant Association is expecting this Super Bowl Sunday.

Though Solo wouldn't disclose sales figures, the company and its party-cup competitors get a huge boost during Super Bowl season regardless of who's playing. Marty's Liquors in Newton, Mass. -- deep in Patriots country -- looked through its sales records back to the Pats' last Super Bowl appearance against the Giants in 2008 and found that disposable cup sales doubled each year during the week heading into Super Bowl Sunday.

Pizza boxes
Papa John's sends out 750,000 pizzas on Super Bowl Sunday, while big-chain competitors Domino's ( DPZ) and Pizza Hut ( YUM) make more than 1 million apiece. That's a big stack of boxes.

Overall, pizza sales surge between 30% and 50% for the Super Bowl. That means independent pizza shops that generally use 55 pizza boxes a day are folding way more cardboard to meet the crush.

That's usually where Smurfit-Stone comes in. The company was the largest pizza box manufacturer in the U.S., but merged with paper and packaging powerhouse RockTenn ( RKT) last year. The folks there weren't able to crunch Super Bowl pizza box numbers, but 14-inch Smurfit-Stone pizza boxes usually sell for between $20 and $25 for a pack of 50.

With 61% of the nearly 50 million people the National Restaurant Association says will be having food delivered during the Super Bowl saying pizza is their preferred menu item, that surge means millions in extra sales for RockTenn and a Sicilian-sized bump for other pizza box suppliers.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.

RELATED STORIES:



Follow TheStreet.com on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

More from Investing

Replay: Jim Cramer on the Markets, Oil, General Electric, Zillow and Micron

Replay: Jim Cramer on the Markets, Oil, General Electric, Zillow and Micron

Pegasystems Founder Explains Why He Has One of the Hottest Tech Stocks Around

Pegasystems Founder Explains Why He Has One of the Hottest Tech Stocks Around

Adobe Isn't Just Going After Shopify With Its Latest Acquisition

Adobe Isn't Just Going After Shopify With Its Latest Acquisition

Experts Break Down GDPR Risks for Investors

Experts Break Down GDPR Risks for Investors

Bitcoin Today: Prices Slip as Broader Crypto Market Struggles to Make Traction

Bitcoin Today: Prices Slip as Broader Crypto Market Struggles to Make Traction