Consumers – literally – consumed more than $1.7 billion (with a B) worth of hot dogs at the supermarket last year. And that’s not counting the ones they bought at restaurants, food trucks, street carts and sports venue concessions. Even so, that’s a drop of 3 per cent from the year before. What’s going on?
Here’s a great quote for you, from a recent post about the decline of the Dog in America:
“…no day is better for hot dog consumption than the Fourth of July, when Americans [were] expected to eat about 150 million of them—enough to stretch from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles more than five times.”
So what’s taking the mustardy tang off the spicy American ballpark classic?
A combination of pressures
A prominent U.S. agricultural economist, Ronald Plain, a professor at the University of Missouri, first notes that this latest decline is only the most recent of similar slides in the past three years. You’d think that the tendency to opt for cheaper protein in hard times would have boosted the popularity of the hot dog in recent years, but, if it has, it hasn’t had enough of a positive effect to offset the losses.
The reasons, he postulates, could include the declining U.S. birth rate. Kids love hot dogs, he says, and there are fewer and fewer of them, these days. Higher meat prices have pushed up the retail price of hot dogs, too, he says, which might be making them a less attractive alternative to, say, beef burgers. And there’s the the immigration picture: folks coming to north America from Asia the Middle East and Hispanic America – three of the largest immigrant groups – find hot dogs culturally dissonant.
Back when the hot dog, as we know it, was introduced – in New York City, by a Polish immigrant, Nathan Handwerker – the overwhelming flood of immigrants to North America was from Europe, where the sausage, in general, and the spicy beef kind, in particular, was a staple.
On the up side…
Nathan’s Famous ‘Original Hot Dogs’ are the one brand that is thriving amid the misfortunes of its newer, copy-cat competitors. It’s sales have continued to grow, year over year, for as long as anyone at the company can remember, It’s a premium product by today’s standards, is retailed across the continent and carries the ‘Famous’ cachet that no other dog can match.
Not to mention the Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest every summer in NYC, which not only shot the hot dog to cult prominence but started the whole phenomenon of competitive eating – ‘friendly’ county fair pie-eating contests notwithstanding.
In addition, hot dog sales remain strong at the world’s baseball parks – part tradition, part convenience. Even Natchos are harder and messier to eat than the immortal dog.
So… the Mighty Hot Dog, though stumbling, is not fallen. The foundation remains solid.
Celebrate the hot dog this summer
… And there’s no better way than to order up some of Maggie J’s hand-made all-meat lactose-free, gluten-free smoked sausages and fire up the grill!
~ Maggie J.