COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | GEORGE CHAMBERLIN

Super Bowl is massive consumer event

Next Sunday’s big football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens is more than a sporting event — it is a massive consumer event.

According to the National Retail Federation, football fans will spend $12.3 billion to gear up and eat up on Super Bowl Sunday. An estimated 179.1 million people — more than half the population of the United States — will watch the game either in their own homes, at a party or in a local restaurant or bar.

“Gathering with friends and family for the Super Bowl is an American tradition, and this year it seems consumers are in the mood to celebrate, which is good news for retailers who typically see slower online and foot traffic during these month," said Bill Thorne, vice president with the NRF. "We expect to see a variety of promotions in the coming days surrounding appetizers and drinks at restaurants, football décor, athletic apparel and, of course, new TVs.”

Food, of course, is closely associated with football and tailgate parties at stadiums across the country. One popular item found at most gatherings is closely associated with San Diego County: avocados.

The Hass Avocado Board estimates 79 million pounds of the fruit are expected to be served at parties and other events next Sunday. That works out to about 8 million more pounds of guacamole and other items that consumes last year.

To put it in graphic terms, 79 million pounds of avocados is enough to cover a football field end zone to end zone 30 feet deep.

The value of U.S. grown avocado production — 60 percent of which comes from San Diego County — reached $492 million in 2011 as production increased to 226,450 tons.

The availability of avocados to U.S. consumers rose dramatically in 2002 when the U.S. Federal Hass Avocado Promotion, Research and Information Order was established, lifting the ban of entry of avocados from Mexico and Central America, which had been in place since 1914.

The Association of Michoacan State Avocado Producers and Packers anticipates 986 million pounds of Mexican avocados will be shipped to the United States in 2012-13, up from 782 million pounds in the previous period.

But avocados alone do not make a Super Bowl party. The National Chicken Council said Americans will eat an estimated 1.23 billion chicken wings during the weekend leading up to the big game.

Unlike avocado prices, which have been declining, the price for chicken wings — the most expensive part of the chicken — are on the rise.

“Chicken companies produced about one percent fewer birds last year, due in part to record-high corn and feed prices," said Bill Roenigk, chief economist at the council. "Feed and corn prices hit an all-time high in 2012, due to two reasons: last summer’s drought and pressure from a federal government requirement that mandates 40 percent of our corn crop be turned into fuel in the form of ethanol. Simply put, less corn equals higher feed costs, which means fewer birds produced.”

But when it comes to feeding a hungry crowd nothing does the job like pizza.

Papa John’s last year estimated its delivery people logged 300,000 miles on Super Bowl Sunday, equal to 1.3 round-trips to the moon. It is the busiest day of the year for Papa John’s, the official pizza sponsor of the National Football League.

Domino’s Pizza said it will deliver as many as 11 million pizzas, about 80 percent more than a typical Sunday.

Of course, there is more to Super Bowl Sunday than food — there are the ever-popular commercials during the game.

Overall, the National Retail Federation finds 45.3 percent of those surveyed said the game itself is most important, while 26.2 percent say it is the commercials that keep them tuned in.

Another 9.6 percent can’t wait to watch the half-time show. The rest simply love the pageantry of the entire day.

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