It’s hard to talk about Arby’s without acknowledging its famous Horsey Sauce. Raising Cane’s is known for its Cane’s Sauce more than its chicken fingers.
Chick-fil-A’s sauces are so popular, the brand has bottled them up for the retail channel.
Americans love their sauces so much, entire lists have been curated to determine which restaurant chain has the best one.
It seems KFC wants to be a bigger part of this conversation. The chain today announced a new signature dipping sauce, aptly called KFC Sauce, that is “tangy and sweet with a bit of smokiness.”
In a press release, CMO Andrea Zahumensky said the company tested 50 iterations of its new sauce with customers, adding “their response to this recipe was overwhelming.”
The new KFC Sauce will be available Oct. 12, joining the chain’s existing portfolio of classic ranch, honey BBQ, honey mustard and KFC hot sauce.
There are plenty of reasons KFC would want to step up its game here. For starters, sauces are wildly popular. They kick flavor up a notch and that attribute has become critical as our palates become a bit more sophisticated. Perhaps that’s why the global culinary sauces market is expected to reach $55.3 billion by 2027, representing an annual growth rate of over 3%.
Further, signature sauces specifically–which no doubt apply to this “KFC Sauce” –are also in high demand. Datassential research shows that more than 40% of consumers have signature sauces in mind when dining at their favorite restaurants, while 91% say they would like to buy their favorite restaurant’s signature sauce at a grocery store.
Third, sauces are versatile–they can customize any menu item to fit any preference. They can be applied to most anything on a KFC menu, be it Extra Crispy Tenders, Secret Recipe Fries or even, in some markets, Beyond Fried Chicken.
KFC drums up excitement about its new item by citing a recent DoorDash survey showing that 75% of Americans believe their meal is ruined if sauces are forgotten. Twenty percent say the sauce is the single most important part of a fried chicken meal. By simply introducing a new, branded sauce, KFC is hitting on all of these trends, but it’s doing so in a subtle way versus a center-of-the-plate menu launch.
This sort of under-the-radar push seems to be KFC’s approach of late. When the pandemic hit, KFC went about business as usual, churning out buckets of fried chicken to families hunkered down at home craving comfort food, all the while testing a chicken sandwich and rolling out new fries.
The chain also quietly launched online ordering for pickup and delivery. So far, that focus on the basics has paid off. In May, KFC registered the highest average sales per store in the brand’s nearly 70-year old history.
There’s no reason to believe this momentum won’t continue, and not just because of a new signature sauce (though that will appeal to many). Just last month, KFC added DoorDash to its delivery roster. With that partnership, KFC solidifies a relationship with the largest delivery provider in the U.S. and, with nearly 50% of the market share, puts the brand in front of a whole lot of hungry consumers.
These moves are fundamental–to get through a crisis, to achieve top-of-mind status on ubiquitous smartphones, to sustain that status for the next order.
In The CMO Podcast with Jim Stengel held earlier this week, Zahumensky touched on these fundamentals.
“It’s more important than ever to be more in touch with our brand; who you are, what is your voice, what is authentic to what you do and your placement in society, because we’ll never get back to ‘normal,’” she said. “We’re getting really clear on what our purpose is as a brand and understanding what our customers need and being uniquely useful to them. We’re getting back to the fundamentals of brand building.”
Adding “KFC Sauce” is a good start toward that goal.
These moves aren’t the typical irreverence put forth by KFC, but it is worth noting the brand hasn’t abandoned its cheeky personality. In July, for example, it sold out of its branded Crocs in less than a half hour. This time around, KFC is promoting its new sauce with three “KFCharcuterie” board recipes consumers can make at home, embracing the moment charcuterie boards are having in our collective ethos.