San Diego-based restaurant chain Jack in the Box has bypassed fake burgers, one of the hottest fast food trends in recent years, and went straight to the hunt for chicken to find the first plant-based alternative on their menu.
Jack’s Unchicken sandwich, available in regular and flavorful versions, was launched in two regions this week – one each in California and Nevada – and picked up a side of competitors who tested meat substitutes before putting the products on wider distribution as soon as they reached consumers.
Jack in the Box, which offers everything from tacos and breakfast burritos to late-night Munchie meals and shakes, is entering the fake chicken category already occupied by competitors such as KFC and El Pollo Loco. Each chain has designed chicken substitutes individually. KFC offers the Beyond Meat product and El Pollo Loco is developing its own recipe.
Jack in the Box is targeting millennials and Gen Z flexitarians with the new sandwich and has sourced its chicken without the chicken from Raised and Rooted, an up-and-coming and fast-growing brand of food giant Tyson.
“We wanted to get into the plant-based conversation in a unique way,” Jen Kennedy, chief product and innovation officer for Jack in the Box, told Adweek. “We always try to think about how we can innovate while going our own way.”
Kennedy said chicken sandwiches were big sellers during the lockdown as consumers sought convenience foods to take away and deliver. At the same time, “we’re seeing a change in the way consumers approach their food choices,” and expecting more plant-based options, she said.
Chicken scented face masks
Stores in Monterey County, California and Reno, Nevada started serving the Unchicken sandwiches this week as the chain aims to “make waves as a challenger brand and be the curls when it comes to convention.” to challenge, ”said Kennedy.
The brand is giving away free, chicken-scented face masks as a publicity stunt. They will be available to everyone from October 23 on the website at jackinthebox.com/chickenfacemask.
Jack in the Box, the 2,200-location chain perhaps best known for its clever bulbous-head mascot, hasn’t ruled out meatless burgers. However, there are no immediate plans to add these items to the menu.
The nonprofit Good Food Institute had predicted that fake chicken would be part of the “third wave” of plant-based foods set to go mainstream (after milk and non-dairy burgers). Plant-based chicken has made great strides in 2020, as have meatballs, pork, and sausage. The demand for alternative protein has accelerated during the coronavirus public health crisis, and food sales have increased triple-digit.
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