Fried chicken programs offer in-store deli meats a mouth-watering way to combine convenience and value.
The original root of fried chicken may be hotly debated, but no one doubts its global dominance as annual consumption continues to rise, surpassing 90 pounds per capita. There are many ways to consume the crunchy and delicious version of the most consumed protein. In the United States, choices may be Southern Fried Chicken, Nashville Hot Chicken, or Buffalo Chicken. Global fried chicken influences include Ayam Goreng (Indonesia), Yangnyeom Chicken (Korea), Karaage (Japan), Chicken Yassa (Africa), and Gai Tod (Thailand), to name a few.
Roast chicken retains the bulk of the category, with fried chicken accounting for only about a third of chicken retail programs. But those who make fried chicken do it well, said Jonna Parker, director of IRI Fresh Foods, Chicago.
Although more expensive than last year, fried chicken, when done well, is a high loyalty product, which is still less expensive than an out-of-store restaurant purchase. And as consumers become more mobile and congregate more in person, fried chicken offers consumers a convenient option that can be easily paired with a range of deli sides to make a complete meal. The traditional eight- or nine-piece bone-in chicken is perfect for on-the-go or take-out meals, a behavior many consumers have adopted during the pandemic.
“You don’t have to change the prices; all prices have gone up,” Parker continued. “Instead, increase foot traffic and emphasize the many ways consumers can feed their families every day by meeting their deli needs – a win-win strategy.” It’s better than discounting individual items and it’s a great opportunity for delicatessens anchored around the meat counter.
Seek to differentiate
Additional flavor options, such as spicy, helped keep bone-in fried chicken sales afloat, observed Broaster Company, Beloit, Wis. Wings also continue to be extremely popular, although high prices have temporarily depressed consumption. For some operators, bone-in thighs prove to be a satisfactory substitute for more expensive wings.
Brakebush Brothers, Westfield, Wisconsin, offers a full line of chicken products in a variety of flavor profiles and breadings/coatings. This includes ready-to-cook IQF tenderloins, tenderloins and chunks, boneless tenderloins, tenderloins and wings, grilled and breaded tenderloins, cutlets, strips, patties and nuggets.
“Demand for chicken is on the rise across all segments of our business, and deli meats are no exception,” said Denise Orth, Director of Marketing, Brakebush Brothers, Inc. “We have had success with fully breaded tenderloins. cooked, roasted or breaded wings and breaded boneless wings.
Since retailers’ chicken programs generally look a lot alike, Parker suggested that retailers could benefit from the popularity of local chicken restaurants. Seasonality and LTO can be great ways to drive traffic and help a retailer get out of a set-and-forget pattern.
As evidenced by the proliferation of chicken-based restaurants in the United States, stores are also seeing the popularity of boneless fried chicken continue to soar, led by sandwiches, supported by a strong base of tenders and snacks. whole muscles such as popcorn and nuggets, according to Greg West, senior vice president of marketing and food innovations, Broaster Company.
Deep fryer tactics
The ability to consistently deliver high quality chicken keeps consumers coming back for more. Broaster recommends pressure frying to produce juicy, flavorful, and moist chicken over open frying. Pressure fryers save operators 25% more time than their fryer counterparts. This year, Broaster will introduce an innovative new pressure fryer, the E-Series 24G, to the convenience/deli segment for high-volume applications. The simple, easy-to-use pressure fryer extends the life of frying oil and offers increased energy efficiency with its gas models.
Producing quality poultry includes observing key considerations with respect to the selection of frying oils for specific flavor objectives, desired nutrient profile, supply chain availability, ease of implementation, consumer perception, fryer management, and total cost, including oil fry life and associated labor costs.
According to Stacy Borders, Technical Services Manager – Foodservice, Cargill, Minneapolis, premium frying oils, such as high oleic sunflower oil and high oleic canola oil, provide greater oxidative stability for longer fry life compared to base oils. These oils extend the optimal frying range, keeping foods looking their best and flavoring longer, increasing consistency, ensuring customer loyalty and a better bottom line. In contrast, base oils can break down more quickly, creating off-flavors and darkening foods.
Using high-quality oil can also save time and reduce labor costs, thereby increasing the average number of days the oil is used. However, good frying oil management practices are important for optimizing frying oil and influencing its shelf life and performance, she continued.
Other considerations revolve around flavor and nutrient profiles. Different oils give different flavors. Canola oil has a clean, neutral flavor profile; sunflower oil has a slight nutty taste; corn oil has sweet notes and soybean oil has a bean or buttery flavor. Nutritionally, canola oil has the lowest saturated fat content and is high in monounsaturated fat.
Make it stick
According to Melissa Machen, Senior Technical Services Specialist, Cargill, achieving optimum adhesion of breadings and batters is one of the product’s greatest challenges, especially in high-moisture meat applications. The right modified starch system can help coatings stick, preventing puffiness and blowouts.
That’s why corn dextrins, known for their ability to improve crispiness, are another staple in breading and batter. Corn dextrins can be added to create a protective film layer around the product, reducing oil absorption and preventing oil from seeping into the breading. Fried products that absorb too much oil become soggy and unappealing. Likewise, oil temperature plays an important role in oil absorption – the correct temperature can help prevent excessive oil absorption.
Cargill researchers have done extensive work to understand adhesion, resulting in modified starches that provide different adhesive and clearcoat functionalities and result in high crispiness and optimal structural integrity. These starches help doughs stick to the substrate and aid in the adhesion of other coating systems like breading, allowing brands to deliver the crispy, crunchy texture that consumers want.
Ultimately, finding the best breading and batter solution will vary depending on the system. How it will be battered and breaded (tempura batter vs double coated) will guide which ingredients to include to aid in sticking and prevent puffing.
“One of the big trends in breading and battering is the decision to incorporate plant-based proteins into these systems,” Machen said. “Plant proteins add crunch and integrity to dough, helping brands create the sensory experiences consumers are looking for. Soy flour is a common choice, but we are also seeing more and more customers experimenting with other vegetable proteins, including pea protein, which really adds to the integrity of the dough.
Ancient grains are another recent addition to some pastas. Options like quinoa or barley offer unique textures that differentiate a product from others on the market, while allowing brands to capitalize on the appeal of these old fashioned grains.
Fried chicken is synonymous with an easy and convenient meal, but it’s important not to classify it as a meal reserved for the summer months. Instead, Parker recommends taking inspiration from the marketing of deli platters and promoting fried chicken year-round. The portable favorite is perfect for picnics, game nights, family reunions, tailgates, social gatherings all year round – the potential is endless.
“Another way to differentiate is to consider regionality and population shifts,” she continued. “Regionality can help differentiate and make store offerings different. Think of people who travel for road trips or to store their Airbnb. Look for ways to introduce new trends like local restaurants do and be aware of regional favorites that people bring with them to a new location.
Ease of transportation is increasingly important as consumers choose to eat their prepared foods outdoors, according to Kurt Richars, Anchor Packaging, Ballwin, Mo. The company’s Crisp Food Technologies® wrap protects the texture of fried chicken and keeps it hot and crispy for hours. . Its rigid containers work seamlessly with operations to deliver superior merchandising and prevent messy leaks that could ruin the consumer experience or create drop hazards in-store, he continued.
The packaging also helps meet growing consumer demand for more sustainable options. Anchor Packaging’s designs offset food waste by providing extended shelf life, a superior dining experience, and an attractive shelf presentation that sells items faster. And tamper-proof designs show how retailers prioritize safety and hygiene.
“Today, it’s essential that packaging is seen as a means to increase sales and profits and not simply as a cost,” concluded Richars. “Industry leaders recognize that in addition to improving merchandising, the right packaging drives sales by improving the customer experience and providing confidence in the safety and security of their food. Make your packaging decisions based on the total return a package can generate, not just the cost of the item.