Clean-label chicken takes menus in a new direction

grilled chicken salads

From Pierce Chicken.

With more chicken producers gravitating away from the use of antibiotics, menu claims touting “clean” chicken no longer have the impact they once did—consumers have come to see it as the norm. To keep diners satisfied, operators have plenty of options for creating menu items that stand apart from the crowd.

A.M. appeal

Pork has long ruled the breakfast daypart, but consumers increasingly say they’d like to see a change of pace with more chicken on the menu. According to Technomic’s recent Breakfast Consumer Trend Report, 43% of consumers aged 18-34 said they would like more restaurants to offer some chicken choices for breakfast meal.

Restaurants are responding in kind, with selections ranging from chicken sandwiches built on biscuits to chicken and waffles, chicken and fried eggs and chicken with French toast. Breakfast tacos and wraps made with chicken have proliferated as well.

Spiced and sauced

Americans’ love of spicy chicken shows no sign of slowing, particularly Nashville hot and buffalo-style sandwiches, appetizers, entrees and salads. But other bold flavor profiles are picking up speed and creating new fans.

Korean-style fried chicken, as imagined by bbbop Seoul Kitchen in Dallas, involves a half chicken fried and coated in spicy chili or ginger soy sauce. Dak & Bop in Houston serves twice-fried Korean wings and drumsticks with a Sriracha honey lime and spicy soy-garlic dipping sauce. The latter also menus boneless chicken strips and a chicken bao.

Teriyaki chicken is nothing new, but the balance of sweet and savory notes remains a craveable combination that’s easily updated. Chefs are riffing on those basics, layering in more flavors such as wasabi, sesame, pineapple and more. And teriyaki chicken more than holds its own in ethnic hybrids such as teriyaki chicken tacos.

Less familiar to American palates is Taiwanese fried chicken, a staple of Taiwan street food and the specialty at Hot-Star, a Taiwan-based international chain that recently expanded to Los Angeles. Taiwanese style typically involves brining; Hot-Star’s version calls for a large bone-in chicken breast, pounded flat, seasoned with a special blend of spices and coated in sweet potato flour. More like a steak, it’s served in three versions: regular, crispy and BBQ.

McDonald’s also recently created a mild splash with the introduction of Buttermilk Crispy Tenders, made with antibiotic-free white meat and no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

Beyond buttermilk

The popularity of buttermilk-battered fried chicken has been off the charts in the last few years, with the Southern staple infiltrating menus ranging from upscale independent restaurants to QSR chains like Arby’s. The latter introduced a whole lineup of sandwiches built around a large 100% breast meat filet marinated in buttermilk, then coated in sweet, savory buttermilk breading.

With so many buttermilk-battered chicken sandwiches out there, Arby’s uses buttermilk as just a jumping-off point. The chain’s chicken sandwich section bounces all over the map, with a buffalo slider, chicken bacon and Swiss, chicken cordon bleu, chicken and cheese slider, and crispy chicken sandwich. A recent LTO, Chicken Pepperoni Parm, wandered into Italian territory.

Top Flock by Pierce Chicken is the perfect way to ensure your signature menu items start with what consumers want—clean chicken. Top Flock chicken is raised with no antibiotics and uses 100% all-natural ingredients, perfect for boosting profit while offering delicious foods.

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