01/31/2013 07:24 EST | Updated 02/11/2013 12:39 EST

Chick-Fil-A Sales Soar In 2012 Despite Bad PR

In the latest sign that all press is good press, Leon Stafford of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Chick-fil-A's sales soared 12 percent, to $4.6 billion, in 2012. The good fortune follows several years of impressive expansion and strong sales, which have pushed the privately-held company's valuation north of $4.5 billion, making billionaires out of its founders.

Chick-fil-A caught a great deal of flak throughout the year after its president Dan Cathy came out against gay marriage and in support of the "biblical definition of the family unit." Gay rights activists staged protests at locations around the country, and some even called for a boycott of the brand.

But if the uproar dampened enthusiasm for the brand among pro-gay rights consumers, it also inspired vigorous backlash from some conservative (and politically apathetic but poultry-loving) customers. Soon after the height of the controversy, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee dubbed (via a Facebook posting) August 1 Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, leading to record sales throughout the chain.

These latest sales data are just further proof that all that negative coverage didn't hurt demand for chicken sandwiches among Chick-fil-A's core consumers.

Strong sales look likely to continue for some time. The company opened 96 new outposts in 2012, after opening 92 in 2011, so more and more of the country now has access to the food. Plus, Chick-fil-A has backed down from its opposition to gay marriage -- Cathy has even apparently become friendly with a top LGBT rights activist. So it may only be a matter of time before pro-gay consumers become as enthusiastic as the rest of the country.

CORRECTION:: This article has been amended to reflect that Huckabee, not Chick-fil-A, instigated the Appreciation Day event.