Here’s how KFC is marketing its updated Beyond Meat faux chicken in two markets
KFC’s newest product, Beyond Fried Chicken, tastes like a chicken nugget. But the more remarkable feat is that it actually looks and feels a bit like chicken.
KFC, like plenty of other fast-food chains, is eager to see how interested consumers are in buying plant-based alternatives to its mainstay products. KFC began working with Beyond Meat in July on the alternative to real chicken nuggets.
A test run of the first version of the nuggets sold out at a single Atlanta restaurant in a matter of hours last summer. Now, after updates to make the nuggets of soy and other ingredients more like the real thing, KFC is about to sell them on a broader scale. Starting Feb. 3, Beyond Fried Chicken will be sold for a few weeks in and around Charlotte, North Carolina, and Nashville, Tennessee.
“This test will be the proof point of should we launch this nationally,” said Andrea Zahumensky, chief marketing officer, KFC U.S.
As ads for those test markets point out, Beyond Fried Chicken has a texture and look that is a bit like a real piece of chicken cut from a bird. Or, in KFC’s wording, as the slogan goes in a commercial, “It’s finger-lickin’ magic.”
The idea of plant-based fried chicken is presented as a feat of magic in ads that come from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland.
“I think we have gotten to a product that our customers are going to believe replicates the experience of having Kentucky Fried Chicken,” said Zahumensky.
The advertising, as Zahumensky describes it, is “very food-forward.” TV, digital and radio ads will run in Charlotte and Nashville in addition to the chain’s ongoing national ads.
The 15-second commercial shows the Col. Sanders character holding the product and pulling it apart. It’s a move that’s nearly identical to the way Beyond Meat Founder and CEO Ethan Brown was pulling apart pieces as he spoke about the product during an interview this week.
“Getting to the point where it has that structure to it, that has the muscle structure to it, was really hard,” said Brown.
While the Atlanta test was deemed a success, both KFC and Beyond Meat agreed the product wasn’t just right.
“The gold standard was whole muscle white meat,” said Trey Burmester, food innovation manager, R&D, at KFC U.S.
The nuggets are cooked in the same fryers as KFC’s chicken, which means they wouldn’t be right for someone on a strict vegan or vegetarian diet. Small text in the commercial and details on KFC’s website make it clear the product is not vegan or vegetarian.
Brown said he is also thinking about a sandwich patty and possibly even a bone-in product. “We obviously want to make it in different form factors and our goal is to get back to enabling people to eat what they love. It’s really up to KFC,” said Brown.
Beyond Meat is still working on getting the nugget perfect, too.
“One day it will be indistinguishable,” said Dariush Ajami, Beyond Meat’s chief innovation officer.
For now, Beyond Meat is working exclusively with Yum Brands' KFC on chicken.
“This is obviously the biggest, most important poultry brand in the world, so I’m just going to leave it at that,” said Brown.