KFC is gearing up for its most anticipated menu addition in years as the fast-food chain announced Friday that it is introducing Original Recipe Boneless Chicken pieces. KFC executives insist the latest addition to its menu may be the brand's most important step forward since it was founded more than 60 years ago.
Making its debut on April 14, Original Recipe Boneless is intended to give customers an alternative to KFC’s traditional breast, thigh and drumstick pieces.
The Louisville-based company's new offering comes as the popularity of nuggets and strips is on the rise. According to KFC, nearly four out of five servings of fried chicken in the U.S. are now boneless. The new boneless, skinless pieces are about twice the size of KFC's crispy strips and come in white or dark meat. Customers can order them for the meal deals, which include two pieces, a side, a biscuit and a drink for $4.99. They also come in buckets, which include four pieces of boneless chicken and six pieces of chicken with bones for $14.99. The boneless chicken option costs the same as the regular fried chicken. A piece of the boneless white meat has 200 calories and 8 grams of fat. A dark meat piece has 250 calories.
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A spokesman for KFC said that the new product performed strongly in test markets including Oklahoma City and Omaha last year.
The new boneless pieces will replace the chicken filets used in sandwiches. Last year, KFC also introduced its smaller, boneless "bites," as well as "Dip'ems" chicken strips that come with a variety of sauces.
In addition to the demand for boneless chicken, analysts suggest that the societal demand for convenient eating has prompted KFC to create an option that would allow consumers to multi-task while enjoying a meal.
"If it can't be held in one hand -- or a cupholder -- don't bother making it," Christopher Muller, dean at Boston University's School of Hospitality Administration, told USA Today. "That's the reality of the mobile world."
KFC’s Original Recipe Boneless will be accompanied by one of the brand’s biggest-ever marketing campaigns, which includes the tag line, "I ate the bones." In TV spots created by KFC's ad agency, DraftFCB Chicago, customers who buy and eat the new boneless line will be depicted, in sudden panic, as if they'd just swallowed whole chicken bones.
Executives hope the phrase will instantly go viral and become a pop-cultural obsession, much like that of Wendy's old slogan hit, "Where's the beef?"
KFC has more than 18,000 restaurants around the world, including more than 4,500 in the U.S. Its parent company, Yum Brands Inc., also owns Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, which have also been introducing major new menu offerings in recent months.
Shares of Yum Brands (NYSE: YUM) fell $2.17, or 3.2 percent, to $65.58 in morning trading as broad market indicators sagged on weaker than expected U.S. job growth in March.