It's pepperoni that 'makes' the pizza for the Big Football Game

On February 3rd, tens of millions of us will gather around the TV for football's annual Big Game

While many of us consider hot dogs a quintessentially American food, another all-American food actually wears the crown on this unofficial national holiday: pepperoni pizza.

While pizza itself traces its lineage to Italy, pepperoni was born in the good, ol' U.S. of A.—and our appetite for it only continues to grow. According to figures compiled for the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC), U.S. retail pepperoni sales in 2018 topped $526 million, up 9.4 percent from 2017. By quantity, 63.5 million pounds of pepperoni was sold, an increase of 5.8 percent.

"If there were a Mount Rushmore of American food, then hot dogs, burgers and apple pie would definitely be on it," said NHDSC President Eric Mittenthal. "But pepperoni pizza makes a strong case for that fourth spot. This year, pepperoni is bigger than ever, any way you slice it!"

While the sausage we know as pepperoni is believed to have been created in the early 20th century, its first reference in print was in 1919, according to The New York Times. So you might say that 2019 is pepperoni's unofficial centennial!

Around 70 percent of those who view the Big Game will eat at least one slice of pizza, and, according to MyFitnessPal, it is by far the most enjoyed food that day, with consumption spiking 67 percent above average. Pepperoni is by far the most popular pizza topping, found on 36 percent of pizzas.

Domino's says the number of pizzas they make with pepperoni is even higher, at 50 percent. Overall, meat toppings can be found on 61 percent of pizzas sold with sausage ranking as the second choice.

Other pepperoni facts include:

The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink says the average American eats 24 pounds of pizza each year, of which two pounds is pepperoni. Pizza.com pegs the total amount of pepperoni consumed annually at about 252 million pounds (from all sources, not just retail).

The leading pepperoni brand, Hormel, has sold enough "to tunnel all the way through the planet Earth." Curious about nutrients? An ounce of pepperoni has about 140 calories, 5.5 grams of protein, about 13 grams of fat and barely one-third of a gram of carbs.

For a full serving of pepperoni and sausage pizza facts, check out the new NHDSC pepperoni page. It joins the extensive hot dog and sausage resources at www.hot-dog.org.

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© 2016 Rick Limpert and Wireless Wednesday Live

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