Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest in Coney Island, New York is an annual event where the hot dog gets to shine.
On the Fourth of July, Americans everywhere can char hot dogs on backyard grills. But thousands of others will celebrate American independence by watching contestants cram dozens of dogs down their throats in a few short minutes.
Broadcast on ESPN, the event is also a clever marketing strategy for a company known for a food that is falling out of fashion on restaurant menus.
Americans eat plenty of hot dogs, about 5.8 billion of them every year, according to industry research firm NPD. That is 17 dogs per person, per year.
But sales of hot dogs aren’t really growing that much. Other trends in the marketplace have overtaken its popularity, industry analysts say, and health concerns have threatened its reputation. In 2015, the World Health Organization linked the consumption of processed meats, including hot dogs, to cancer.
Hot dogs have also had to adapt to changes in…