Monday, 18 May 2009

Our Fast Food... It Is A-Changin'

Despite the endless propaganda from the greenies and health fanatics, New Zealanders continue to be big fans of fast food. Last year kiwis spent more than $1 billion on fast food, with sales increasing further this year as wallets become tighter.

In the first three months of this year, New Zealanders ate through $300 million in fast food takeaways... that works out to $70 per person! ;-) That spend is up $6 million on the first quarter of 2008, with fast food sales jumping $10.5 million in March to $105.6 million.

Chicken and Pizzas are the biggest sellers, with fish and chips, hamburgers, and ethnic takeaways making up the next biggest block.

At burger chain McDonalds, sales are up about 7% this year, while KFC has seen a 4.1% increase in sales, while Pizza Hut taking were down by 6.4%.

Nutritionists are not impressed by kiwis' love affair with what they see as bad fast food. "Community nutrition advisor" Janne Pasco says people need foods packed with nutrients to ward off disease, and this is particularly important during hard times...
"It is sad that when faced with an economic recession, people are seeing takeaways as representing good value for money particularly when for the same price, and not much extra time and effort, a family of four could have three tasty yet much more nutritious meals."
In the United States, KFC is trying to improve its image after years of bad press for being "an unhealthy fast food option". In an effort to appeal to calorie counters, KFC has introduced the new "Kentucky Grilled Chicken".
The new grilled chicken has fewer calories, fewer grams of fat, and less sodium that the Original Recipe fried chicken. To retain the famous KFC flavour, the chicken pieces are marinated and seasoned with the secret herbs & spices, before being slow-roasted/grilled. Sounds yummy!

To help spread the word, KFC launched a "Free Meal" coupon deal through the Oprah Winfrey Show. The free meal included 2 pieces of the new Grilled Chicken, 2 individual sides (like coleslaw and potato & gravy), plus a "biscuit" (what kiwis would call a plain scone).
Unfortunately for KFC, the offer proved too popular, leading to shortages in many stores, as well as mini riots from angry customers. The company has since offered an apology, and a raincheck offer for anyone who missed out...

I also like the "bowl" range of meals that KFC has in America and some overseas outlets. Crispy chicken is mixed with mashed potatos and sweet corn, covered in gravy, and topped with cheese. (The US version also features a rice option).
KFC introduced a bowl meal very briefly here in New Zealand last year (including Popcorn chicken in the mix), but unfortunately their "limited time only" offer lasted all of about 3 weeks, and the delicious meals haven't been seen since. Shame on you KFC!

Meanwhile, Pizza Hutt is trying to regain market share and increase profits by expanding its range to include oven-baked Pasta. Restaurant Brands holds the local rights to the brand, but has struggled to make money from its Pizza arm, due to higher cheese and flour prices, along with a tough Pizza price war with competitors like Dominos.
The tv commercials currently being playing in New Zealand to promote the new baked pasta range show a Pizza Hut restaurant being blown up, and replaced with a "Pasta Hut" outlet.

The adverts aren't all for show... Yum! Brands - which owns the international company - did test the Pasta Hut brand overseas by converting some outlets to the new name, before reverting to the original Pizza Hut name after 3 months "due to popular demand".

Australian customers were also asked to vote for their preferred name, with the original brand name winning out, although a few stores are co-branded.

Pasta meals have already been introduced successfully in the US, UK, Canada and Australia Pizza Hut restaurants. Pizza Hut NZ is launching the Tuscani Pasta range here in two varieties, meatball napolitana and creamy chicken & mushroom.

* Stuff: We're pigging out on fast food

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