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Will chicken strips kill the chicken nugget?

Chicken strip servings in restaurants and foodservice outlets have increased by 16 percent in the quarter ending in September year over year, said research firm The NPD Group.

At the same time, chicken nugget servings declined by 3 percent.

Those numbers might cause some observers to conclude that strips are rapidly replacing nuggets in diners’ hearts.

Not so, says NPD Group.

According to the research firm’s receipt mining service Checkout, chicken nuggets lost buyers, but those buyers were not switching to chicken strips.

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NPD Group says the two breaded-chicken products appeal to different buyers, and the double-digit growth in chicken strip servings is attributed to product innovation at both quick-service and fast-casual concepts.

While things might not be looking good for nuggets, there were still 2.3 billion chicken nugget servings ordered in the year ending in September, compared with 1.5 billion servings of chicken strips.

And chicken overall remains popular. Pounds of chicken shipped by broadline distributors to independent and micro/small chain restaurants and other foodservice outlets increased by 4 percent during the period, compared with the prior year.

“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,” said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of “Eating Patterns in America.”

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