Breaded chicken sandwiches are gaining in popularity, according to The NPD Group.

CHICAGO – Hamburgers still rule the foodservice kingdom but breaded chicken sandwiches are making a push to second in line for the throne.

Servings of breaded chicken sandwiches have grown an average of 3 percent over the last four years, and 2.4 billion breaded chicken sandwiches were ordered at US foodservice outlets in the year ending July 2014, reported The NPD Group, a leading global information company.

“Among the factors driving the increase in breaded chicken sandwich orders from a consumer standpoint is the perception of chicken, breaded or not, being a better-for-you option and the availability of new types of breading, like whole grain,” says Annie Roberts, vice president, NPD SupplyTrack. “On the operations end, chicken and chicken sandwich restaurant concepts have expanded units and more restaurants and non-commercial foodservice outlets, like schools and hospitals, are serving breaded chicken sandwiches.”

Customers at midscale/family dining establishments ordered 4 percent more breaded chicken sandwiches this year, according to NPD Group. Quick service restaurants saw a 3 percent increase in servings in the year ending July 2014 compared to a year ago, while servings at independent restaurants grew 2 percent. Non-commercial foodservice locations such as hospitals, schools, and workplace cafeterias, served 5 percent more breaded chicken sandwiches during the period.

Whole grain breading is the favorite among consumers. Units of whole grain breaded chicken shipped from foodservice distributors to restaurants and other outlets increased by triple digits, according to data from The NPD Group's SupplyTrack.

But burgers remain the boss of foodservice. The category remains at the top and growing with 9 billion servings ordered at foodservice outlets in the year ending July 2014, a 3 percent increase over a year ago, The NPD Group noted. Units and pounds of ground beef patties shipped to foodservice customers climbed 1 percent.

“Whether it’s breaded chicken sandwiches or burgers, these are huge categories that foodservice distributors, manufacturers, and operators can look at in a variety of different ways,” Roberts said. “However, a key aspect of identifying growth opportunities with these categories is understanding consumer demand.”