Do consumers want more healthy options at fast-food restaurants?

KFC is responding to growing consumer demand for healthy foods by launching a trial of its first griddled chicken products in the UK market at 17 restaurants in the Tyne-Tees area.


Jennelle Tilling, vice-president of marketing, KFC

I think customers want choice. The secret to our success is providing a wide variety of great-tasting food that is value for money. We are always listening to our customers and making sure the food we offer meets their changing tastes and lifestyles.

At KFC, we work hard to constantly evolve our menu with innovative products and make continuous nutritional improvements to our menu.

We have recently launched the griddled chicken trial, as we know people are looking for lighter options, but also new, great-tasting flavours.

The griddled chicken recipe is an exciting addition to our Original Recipe chicken and we hope it will be just as popular with our customers and become part of our signature range.

Ultimately, it is our customers who decide our menu and we pride ourselves on providing an affordable range of quality chicken, as well as easy- to-understand nutritional information to help customers make a choice.


Jonathan Harman, EMEA president, Carlson Marketing

As health has risen on people's agendas, fast-food brands have changed their offering. While healthy, organic and Fairtrade ingredients are the ideal, consumers won't make those choices at the expense of speed.

By creating a healthier image for the fast-food brand, KFC probably hopes to boost revenue. Take Pizza Hut's 'Pasta Hut' initiative, developed to counter 'unhealthy' slurs. A healthier menu won't radically change behaviour, but it does provide the opportunity for a different choice.

Fast-food brands that align their offering with the government's Change4Life drive to promote healthy eating will certainly benefit.

The film Supersize Me probably motivated food retailers to act as much as consumer behaviour, but regardless of where the demand stems from, the market is moving that way.

Health has been a global trend for years and making fast food appear healthier is an important marketing strategy. Fast-foods brands should just be careful to ensure that their brand values are not compromised.


Julie Leivers, head of brands, Hovis

This is the classic question of whether a brand should stick to what it is famous for or follow consumer trends.

While a griddled chicken breast isn't likely to appeal to your average white-van driver, it will be a welcome addition for anyone keen to keep their family/partner happy, while having the option of a healthier meal for themselves.

McDonald's has had some success with this strategy, and it is not as if healthy living is just a fad.

My first concern is the choice of flavouring - chimichurri. I would have stayed a little closer to KFC's roots, maybe using the Colonel's secret recipe.  

A bigger worry is whether KFC can execute this with excellence. I suspect  the operational implications of adding griddling capabilities are pretty challenging.

NPD is great, but only once you've absolutely nailed the basics, such as consistency and service.


Don Williams, chief executive, pi global

If you listen to the incessant noise surrounding health and healthy eating, you would be forgiven for expecting to walk around the streets of any major city in the UK and seeing lots of thin people. But you don't.
The reality is that companies find it impossible not to stand up to pressure groups, the media and celebrity chefs.

I have no doubt that consumer research highlights the desire for healthier food because it would be almost heresy for the average Joe to say anything else. Consumers know that junk food in excess is bad for them, but the truth is that most of them love it.

That said, habits will change slowly, and KFC adding healthier options to its menu will doubtlessly create a rosy glow that has the same emotional effect as pigging out on eight pints of lager followed by a monster (albeit now healthy) curry - assuaged by the low-fat yoghurt for breakfast the next day.

But in the real world, if you want millet, you go to a budgie shop.


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