KFC says it’s cooking up a new, healthier recipe, one that will be missing the restaurant chain’s most famous ingredient: chicken.
The company famous for its “finger lickin’ ” Southern fried chicken announced this week that it was testing chicken-like “vegetarian options” in Britain with its signature blend of herbs and spices.
“Development of the recipe is still in its very early stages, and so the options we’re exploring in our kitchen are still top secret,” a spokesman for KFC said in a statement.
“Once we’ve perfected the recipe, we aim to test with customers this year, and if all goes well, we hope to launch a new vegetarian option in 2019.”
The spokesman declined to comment on whether the menu item would go global.
The venture was announced as the British government is pushing to cut the national consumption of excess calories. Public Health England issued guidelines in March with the aim of reducing the calorie count of some popular foods by 20 percent by 2024.
KFC itself has a seven-year initiative to achieve such a cut in the calorie count of its servings in Britain, and said its work on vegetarian “fried chicken” was part of that.
In deciding to experiment with a vegetarian chicken substitute, KFC also seems to be responding to a growing demand for meat-replacement products such as tofu and soy-based burgers and sausages.
American consumers spent $698.6 million on meat substitutes last year, up 25.6 percent from $556.3 million in 2012, according to statistics published by the research firm Euromonitor International.
Demand for meat alternatives has also risen sharply in Britain, with consumers spending $374.1 million in 2017, up 56.2 percent from $239.5 million in 2012.
McDonald’s introduced a soy-based McVegan burger to its restaurants in Sweden and Finland in late December. It has drawn customers who had not visited a McDonald’s in years, some of whom have praised it as “top notch” and “delicious.”
KFC’s announcement provoked mixed reactions on Twitter, with one user declaring that “no vegetarian would set foot in a fried chicken chain.”
Another said it was “breathtaking how fast the plant meat 2.0 sector is moving. Here comes Colonel with KFC fried Chickn.”
KFC chicken is so popular in Britain that when a logistical failure in February forced the chain to temporarily close half of its 900 outlets, some members of the public called the police.
The company issued a full-page newspaper apology and reopened all its restaurants within a month.