Tricon last week blamed the Twister for flat sales at KFC during the third quarter, compared with the prior year.
The sandwich, launched in July with advertising from Y&R Advertising, New York, was touted as a revolutionary product. It was the chain's first cold chicken item.
"The wrap category had begun to be sort of saturated," said Michael Tierney, director of public relations for KFC. "We have very high expectations. It just didn't perform up to expectations."
Wendy's International, which beat KFC to the gate with its own four-item pita sandwich line last May, recently launched a new round of ads from Bates USA, New York, and is having positive results, observers said.
When Wendy's launched pitas, the chain set sales records for the quarter, and for the four-week introductory period.
GIGA PETS FOR HOLIDAYS
KFC is looking to a national holiday promotion featuring Giga Pets, an electronic toy, to spice up its sales. The virtual pets were tested this fall in Jacksonville, Fla.
The trinkets will be offered for purchase with combination meals. A price has not yet been determined.
A TV spot is being produced by Y&R to support the promotion.
KFC spent $162 million on measured advertising last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
Mitchell Pinheiro, an analyst with Janney Montgomery Scott, Philadelphia, said Twisters cannibalized sales of existing products.
"It was their big new product. The only thing that can be said positively is they made a decision quickly before it really hurt," he said.
'NOT A BOMB'
Wally Hebert, marketing director for JRN Inc., a 93-unit KFC franchisee based in Columbia, Tenn., said the product "was not a bomb."
He said Twisters helped introduce staffers at the chicken chain to sandwich production, noting that sandwiches have a future at KFC, which built its fortunes on selling hot chicken on the bone.
Tricon, the company spun off from PepsiCo earlier this month as parent to the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell chains, in its first earnings statement last week said same-store sales in the third quarter ended Sept. 6 were up 3% at Pizza Hut in company-owned stores compared with a year ago, the first increase in over a year.
Same-store sales were also up 3% at Taco Bell compared with a year earlier. KFC's flat sales represent the first lackluster quarter for the chain in some