Arby’s is revamping its fried chicken.
The chain is now selling sandwiches made with a new chicken breast fillet, Arby’s told Business Insider. The upgraded fillet is bigger than the brand’s previous version, marinated in buttermilk and coated in a buttermilk breading.
The result, according to Arby’s senior vice president of product development Jim Taylor, is juicier and more flavorful, with a mix of sweet and savory that aims to “excite more areas of your palate.”
The upgraded chicken will be used on Arby’s menu mainstays Chicken Bacon Swiss, Chicken Cordon Bleu, and Crispy Chicken, as well as the new limited-time Buttermilk Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, which is launching nationwide on Monday.
“We definitely needed something that was spicy and also unique to Arby’s,” Taylor told Business Insider of the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich. A hand-dipped buffalo sandwich fit the bill, as something sold at bar and grills or casual dining restaurants, but rarely appearing on the menu at fast-food chains.
Taylor said that Arby’s chicken relaunch was in response to the chain looking for areas where it was falling short.
“We ask ourselves, ‘Are there areas or gaps that we don’t fulfill?'” he says.
Chicken was one area Arby’s felt it could improve, with sales failing to measure up with what the company believed they could be. A new fillet and the accompanying push to market the chain’s chicken sandwiches at a time when Americans are craving higher-quality and more flavorful versions of fried chicken could be a major game changer for the chain.
“I think America has always had a love affair with fried chicken,” says Taylor. “Let’s face it, a lot of things taste great fried.”
Arby’s isn’t the only chain angling to get in on the fried chicken game.
In 2015, Burger King launched its Chicken Fries and McDonald’s reintroduced Chicken Selects. Taco Bell is now planning a national launch of a taco that uses fried chicken as the tortilla, as well as testing other fried-chicken menu items.
Chicken chain Chick-fil-A has exploded from a regional chain to the No. 1 chicken chain in the US by sales in recent years. Meanwhile, rival KFC is in the midst of a brand revamp, putting its extra crispy and regional takes on fried chicken front and center.
Part of the explosion of fried chicken in the fast-food and fast-casual industry is due to lower chicken prices.
However, another factor is simply that Americans are craving fried chicken. According to the public-perception tracker YouGov Brand Index data, the chicken sector has been the No. 1 category in the fast-food business by purchase consideration since April, when it eclipsed the burger sector.
The American fast-food industry is entering a golden age of fried chicken.With its new fried-chicken fillet and the Buffalo Chicken sandwich, Arby’s wants in on the action.