FAST food giant KFC has repeatedly ditched efforts to sell healthier meals – because customers hated them.
Bosses at the High Street chain revealed regulars were unimpressed by their grilled or baked chicken offerings.
The firm splashed out £8 million installing special ovens across its branches in a bid to offer healthier alternatives to its famous battered birds.
But poor sales scuppered the launches of “non-fried” products, forcing chiefs to go back to the drawing board.
A senior KFC executive admitted it had to abandon the plans after poor sales of three new items – the Brazer grilled chicken sandwich launched in 2011, the Rancher sandwich in 2012 and a pulled chicken product launched in 2015.
Jenny Packwood, head of brand engagement at KFC UK and Ireland, made the comments at a talk on food “reformulation”.
Officials want calories in popular meals – such as pizzas and burgers – slashed by 20 per cent in a bid to tackle the nation’s bulging waistlines.
But speaking at Public Health England’s annual conference, Ms Packwood said: “It didn’t go brilliantly well. We tried and we failed to launch a non-fried product.
“We were unable to sustain sales. They were just not selling.
“It’s no good launching a product which looks good nutritionally but then nobody buys.
“It doesn’t improve the health of the nation and in terms of sustainability it is a disaster.”
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said she was not surprised by KFC’s struggles to introduce “non-fried” products.
But insisted reformulating everyday foods to make them healthier can still be done successfully.
KFC said it has also had mixed success with its new skin-on fries.
The thicker cut chips have 18 per cent fewer calories and 12 per cent less fat.
Ms Packwood added: “Frankly it has been controversial and we get a lot of grief about our fries.”
But she said customers have embraced their lower-calorie rice box, as it still contains its trademark fried chicken.
She said: “It’s giving people a little bit of what they love but wrapping it in something healthier.”
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Other big brands also revealed their struggles with reformulation.
Tesco group quality director Sarah Bradbury said sales of its own-brand tomato soup plummeted when they instantly reduced salt levels by a quarter.
She said: “Overnight they stopped buying our soup. We had to put salt back in, and then slowly take them along the journey, and over the 15 years we have taken 40 per cent of salt out.”
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