Business

Wendy's is heating up the chicken sandwich wars with this new item

Posted February 17, 2021 9:46 a.m. EST

— Wendy's is heating up the fried chicken sandwich wars — quite literally this time. The newest entrant into the poultry clash is a Jalapeño Popper Sandwich, a spicy spin on the classic.

The $5.99 sandwich, which was released Wednesday, is covered in jalapeños including in a flavored cream cheese spread plus six slices of the pepper on top. It also features three slices of bacon, two cheeses (cheddar and pepper jack) and a toasted bun.

Wendy's is also releasing a $6.79 fried chicken salad topped with a creamy jalapeño ranch dressing on a bed of romaine and spring mix lettuce.

"Consumers are looking for flavor, and unfortunately there's boring and bland options out there from our competition," Wendy's Chief Marketing Officer Carl Loredo told CNN Business in an exclusive interview. "They are hyper-focused on flavor and it's something they want and need right now."

The spicy sandwich is the newest iteration of Wendy's recently relaunched fried chicken sandwich that hit restaurants last fall. The update has a crispier, juicier filet compared to its predecessor. Loredo said that customers "really love it" and sales have been "unbelievable," but he couldn't divulge specifics because Wendy's reports earnings in a few weeks.

Wendy's is aiming to differentiate itself from the competition with more flavorful options on traditional items, Loredo said, including with items like the Pretzel Bacon Pub hamburger, spicy chicken nuggets and spicy asiago chicken sandwich.

"If I'm honest, folks are trying to make news out of products that we've had out there and been doing best-in-class for some time," he said of his competitors' menu items.

The market for chicken consumers is hugely competitive and the surge of new options is unrelenting. Just hours ago, Burger King announced the release a brand new chicken sandwich, joining several other new offerings from Chick-fil-A, Shake Shack, KFC and even Boston Market. Next week, McDonald's unleashes three new chicken sandwiches including a spicy option.

Popeyes sparked the chicken wars with its game-changing chicken sandwich, released in 2019. Restaurant Brands International, the chain's owner, said in an recent earnings call that sandwich sales "continued at very strong levels."

A typical Popeyes restaurant now makes over $1.8 million in yearly sales — an increase from $1.4 million prior to the sandwich relaunch.

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