Saucy nuggets become new chicken foodservice battleground

Top consumer trends collide when it comes to boneless chicken topped with sauces.

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Kfc Saucy Nuggets

Forget the Chicken Sandwich Wars. Chicken foodservice is now locked into a battle of the saucy chicken nuggets.

KFC was the first quick service restaurant chain to release saucy nuggets back in April. A play on the chain’s chicken nuggets, saucy nuggets are “dripping in one of five delicious sauce flavors,” including honey sriracha, Korean BBQ, sticky chicky sweet ‘n sour sauce, Nashville hot and Georgia gold, according to a press release.

Wendy’s has now followed suit, releasing their take on saucy nuggets called Saucy Nuggs in June. These are tossed in a choice of seven unique flavors choices that include honey BBQ, garlic parm, buffalo, spicy honey BBQ, spicy garlic parm, spicy buffalo and spicy ghost pepper.

Boneless + sauce = win with young consumers.

Saucy chicken nuggets meet the criteria of two very popular consumer trends.

First, younger consumers are more interested in boneless chicken options than bone-in. In fact, back in 2022, Chris Scott, head chef of KFC U.S. called chicken nuggets “a really big deal” designed to introduce “a whole new generation to the original recipe.”

Sauces are another top trend. Technomic’s Flavor Consumer Trend Report finds that 34% of consumers consider what sauces and condiments are available when deciding what restaurants to visit.

I tested the viability of these trends by asking my 14-year-old nephew (who you may remember from previous blog posts about Sleepy Chicken and the metaverse) for his thoughts. He’s a boneless chicken fan and told me he preferred the saucy nuggets overall to regular chicken nuggets, although he called the “saucy ones a hit or miss” when it came to flavor, at least when it came to the ones from Wendy’s. Barbeque was his favorite, while the garlic ones weren’t to his taste.

The Chicken Sandwich Wars captivated consumer attention back in 2019, boosting sales for the entire chicken sandwich marketplace. More recently, McDonald’s announced that its chicken revenue is now equal to beef.

Will saucy chicken nuggets be a fleeting fad or here to stay? Only time will tell, but I bet you we’ll see more variations before the year is out.

In other chicken foodservice news:

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