KFC has introduced Original Recipe Bites to its menu systemwide, a move the company called its “biggest product launch since Kentucky Grilled.”
The new item, made with KFC’s signature 11 herbs and spices, launched with national advertising and a limited-time promotional price of $3.99 for a six-piece combo with a side and a drink.
“With the introduction of Original Recipe Bites, bite-sized chicken has finally ‘grown up,’" chief marketing officer Jason Marker said in a statement. "They’re big, tasty pieces of bite-sized 100-percent breast meat chicken that will be a hit with adults as well as kids.”
While Original Recipe Bites do not have the same promotional force behind them as Kentucky Grilled Chicken did — the latter had a national coupon promotion tied to the “Oprah Winfrey Show” in May 2009 and was relaunched two years later — KFC is looking to the item to build on sales momentum that had begun moving in the right direction.
Despite successful introductions of new products that produced a big rush of trial, including grilled chicken in 2009 and the Double Down sandwich in April 2010, KFC has struggled during and since the last recession. Same-store sales at KFC in the U.S. decreased 4 percent in both fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2010, although the loss narrowed to 2 percent in fiscal 2011. KFC reported a 2-percent increase in domestic same-store sales in the first quarter of 2012.
KFC’s new item enters a competitive landscape that includes not only chicken chains like Chick-fil-A and Popeyes, which have grown their market share in recent years at KFC’s expense, but proliferating chicken options at other quick-service chains. McDonald’s ran a Chicken McBites limited-time offer in the first quarter and currently is selling a Spicy McBites version in its stores, while Burger King has made chicken strips part of its revamped menu.
Original Recipe Bites are available in six- or 10-piece orders and come with honey barbecue, ranch, sweet and sour, and honey mustard dipping sauces. KFC spokesman Rick Maynard said the new bite-size items would not replace the Colonel’s Crispy Strips or Popcorn Chicken, which still are offered in many locations at franchisees’ discretion.
Louisville, Ky.-based KFC, a division of Yum! Brands Inc., has more than 17,000 restaurants in more than 115 countries, including more than 4,700 U.S. units.