Wingstop Taps Into The Popularity Of Marijuana For Its Latest Promotion

Food & Drink


latest promotion is certainly blunt.

Just in time for April 20, a day acknowledged by some to celebrate marijuana, Wingstop is offering a new limited-edition flavor, Blazed & Confused. As the company notes, these wings won’t get you high, but the “sticky, sweet, smoky and herbal flavors will ignite your senses and create a tingly sensation.”

That’s an ambitious promise, to be sure. To be more descriptive, the flavor combines terpene, hemp seeds, strawberry and cayenne pepper (but notably not THC or CBD additives).

With this launch, Wingstop is tapping into a massive marketing trend as the legalization of cannabis continues to grow throughout the U.S. Eighteen states and Washington, DC, have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, with more adding legalization to the ballot.

As such, the U.S. cannabis industry is expected to double to nearly $42 billion by 2025, creating a big opportunity for brands to create excitement and generate engagement, particularly among younger consumers.

All types of businesses are striking while the iron is hot–from cannabis tourism to cannabis yoga and everything in between.

Restaurants are the perfect catalyst for such promotions (think: munchies), and while the idea may be growing, it’s certainly nothing new. Cannabis-themed sub concept Cheba Hut was founded in 1998, for instance, and now has about 50 locations. There are also independent concepts throughout the country that focus on the plant. More recently, actor Cheech Marin, of Cheech and Chong fame, launched a virtual concept called Muncheechos featuring “stoner food.”

Wingstop also isn’t alone in promoting 4/20 specifically. Brands from Smashburger to Insomnia Cookies to Fatburger and Shake Shack

have long leveraged the cannabis-loving crowd to acknowledge the special day and appeal to an intensely captured crowd.

What’s perhaps different about Wingstop is simply its size. The 1,500-unit chain has the footprint to bring this type of marketing angle to the masses, signaling perhaps a broader acceptance of cannabis.

“… While many brands are starting to give a nod to 4/20, we’re going higher than ever this year by dedicating an entire flavor to it. As the cannabis industry grows, so does Wingstop’s desire to engage this audience,” Wingstop’s Chief Growth Officer Marisa Carona said in a statement.

Wingstop is also in the business of selling wings, which is a popular food for stoners. As one blog notes, “chicken wings are a great sharable stoner snack because they’re easy to just throw in a big bowl for the whole table.”

The chicken wings category in general has become super intense, as the product is not only versatile but wildly popular. Wingstop’s recent success has proven as much.

Further, Wingstop executives have referred to the company as a “category of one,” which has likely inspired a bevy of new competitors, including virtual brands like Applebee’s Cosmic Wings and Brinker’s It’s Just Wings.

Wingstop is flexing a bit of its creativity with Blazed & Confused, and for good reason. Seems consumers want more excitement from their chicken wings as evidenced by the success of Cheetos-flavored Cosmic Wings and Buffalo Wild Wings’ new Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili sauce.

According to Pew Research, more than 90% of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana, providing a major vote of confidence for Wingstop to explore–and promote–Blazed & Confused, and perhaps widen its standing as a “category of one.” Blazed & Confused is only available from April 18-22, while supplies last.

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