KFC Canada chases bacon lovers with newest sandwich

KFC Canada has made a rash(er) decision in the chicken sandwich wars, launching a new menu item designed to appeal to the many Canadians who believe there’s no foodstuff that can’t be enhanced by adding bacon.

The QSR chain last week introduced the Bacon Lovers Sandwich, a made-in-Canada menu item it describes as being “all-in” on bacon. The sandwich consists of a fried chicken fillet topped with four strips of bacon, a slice of Monterey Jack and a “baconnaise” sauce.

Available through the third week of June, the LTO follows on the heels (wait, do chickens even have heels?) of last year’s popular Famous Chicken Chicken Sandwich, which KFC has made a permanent addition to its menu. “That was our salvo, saying ‘You want a chicken sandwich? Here’s a chicken sandwich,'” said KFC Canada marketing director Ira Dubinsky.

“We can actually knock it out of the park when it comes to chicken sandwiches because we’re the fried chicken experts,” he added. “What is awesome about having a product like that become so popular is that it’s a platform for innovation.”

The new Bacon Lovers Sandwich is the latest salvo in the chicken sandwich wars, which informally kicked off with the September introduction of Popeyes’ enormously popular chicken sandwich in Canada. KFC, Mary Brown’s, Wendy’s and McDonald’s all made moves to respond , and just this week Burger King Canada announced the launch of its Nashville Hot Crispy Chicken Sandwich.

“The sandwich wars are real,” said Dubinsky, who joined KFC Canada this year. “There is a strong play by lots of mainstream competitors and small independents playing in this space, and we can definitely hold our own and then some.”

With so much focus on plant-based innovation these days, it seems like meat-based menu items have fallen out of fashion. But Dubinsky said that chicken’s versatility and adaptability, combined with seemingly unlimited consumer appetite for the country’s most popular meat, are key factors in the rise of chicken sandwiches.

“There’s a real excitement and energy around fried chicken sandwiches because they’re portable, they’re easy to eat and they can accommodate lots of different toppings and flavours,” he said.

Dubinsky said the Bacon Lovers Sandwich represents one of KFC Canada’s major product launches this year, and it’s being supported by an integrated campaign from John St. that includes TV, video-on-demand, OOH and social. It is also providing listeners on Spotify’s free tier with 30 minutes of commercial-free listening. Media for the campaign was handled by Wavemaker.

The video ads eschew storytelling or a more conceptual approach in favour of a straight ahead focus on the sandwich itself. “The marriage between these ingredients is so perfect that we ended up with a creative idea that essentially allows it to stand on its own and shine through,” said Dubinsky. “We wanted to give as much of the spotlight as possible to the product itself.”

The video ads do end with a playful challenge to KFC’s competitors in the chicken sandwich space: “Your move other sandwiches.”

“There are some great fried chicken out there, but we really are the OG, so we feel confident in doing chicken sandwiches in the best way and going up against anyone with our offer,” said Dubinsky of the decision to directly challenge competitors. “This is an innovation we’re really excited about.”

Chris Powell