Around the world, demand for chicken continues to grow. In the US alone, chicken consumption has skyrocketed from 28 pounds per capita to 98 pounds a year (Mashed, 2022). So how can operators and manufacturers keep the category exciting and relevant? As meat prices rise and consumer dining habits change, finding ways to address health, flavor and sustainability with chicken innovation are key to making an impact.
Consider fried chicken, with food cultures all over the world presenting their own spin on this beloved dish. After the rise of Korean fried chicken, we expect to see Taiwanese popcorn chicken and fiery Indian chicken 65 as the next “hot” global varieties. Grocery retailers are staking their claim on the crispy chicken sandwich trend that started in QSR, expanding into grab-and-go sandwiches and meal kits that align with consumers’ need for convenience and variety, as spotted in the UK, South Africa and more.
From a nutrition standpoint, chicken benefits from its health halo and consumer desire to boost protein intake while watching cholesterol and fat (The National Provisioner, 2022). Many consumers surveyed in South America and the EU say they’re increasing chicken consumption while cutting back on red meat (Mintel, 2023). Still others are exploring plant-based alternatives made from yellow peas, mushroom root or chickpea flour. One plant-based US chain is finding success serving what they claim to be the ”best chicken sandwich on the market…[that] just so happens to be made of plants” (NRN, 2022). And in India, plant-based chicken is taking off as a “planet-friendly” solution to animal protein.
On the snacking side, chicken flavors are driving innovation in the chip category—especially in Colombia and the US. We’re also seeing chicken skins being used to deliver the texture of traditional potato chips, without the carbs. Chicken bars, bites and jerky are found on retail shelves across Europe and South America, and this category is starting to gain more traction in North America, too. In China, almost half of consumers eat meat-based snacks weekly (Mintel, 2023), and a range of preparation techniques are used to create chicken snacks in that market, as well as in Thailand and Japan.
It's all about balance. Operators have enhanced their menus with a mix of health-conscious and eco-friendly meat alternatives, alongside indulgent chicken sandwiches. They're also finding ways to incorporate global flavors into chicken dishes.
Plant-based "chicken" products are driving innovation as consumers seek more sustainable alternatives to poultry products. New flavors and formats are helping to meet demand for authentic chicken taste and texture in these meatless items.
CPG brands are highlighted high protein and sustained energy claims in new chicken snacks, which target consumers' dynamic lifestyles and varying dietary needs.