KFC is on the attack. It is airing national commercials touting fried chicken -- yes, fried chicken -- as part of a healthy diet. If it works, this campaign could have a very positive impact on its parent company, mega-brand fast-food giant YUM! Brands (NYSE: YUM ) .
KFC was 30% of Yum!'s domestic sales last year and it had the company's highest five-year sales growth rate at 4% -- 2% per year higher than sister companies Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.
KFC's growth has been slow but steady. However, when you consider that McDonald's (NYSE: MCD ) , Burger King, and Wendy's (NYSE: WEN ) have 52,000 restaurants, getting people to switch to KFC's unique products can create a big sales swing for KFC's 11,000 restaurants.
For years, KFC advertising has focused on the product. Whether you like the commercials or not, you have to admit they were not hard-hitting. That is going to change. The new ads compare KFC's Original Recipe Chicken Breast's fat, carbohydrates, and protein against that of a Burger King Whopper (the poor Whopper, always slammed as the worst of all food choices for health-conscious diners in a hurry).
The Colonel's Kitchen believes that "eating sensibly, combined with appropriate exercise, is the best solution for a healthy lifestyle." Whether that kind of PR spin can rise above the noise of the Colonel's deep fryers remains to be seen. But it's worth a shot given the success of Subway's advertising campaign and the more greasified fast-food restaurants' continued attempts to find that healthy Holy Grail.
KFC's website touts a low-fat and low-calorie meal of 440 calories that consists of one Original Recipe drumstick (yes, one!), mashed potatoes with gravy, corn on the cob, and a diet Pepsi. Yum! It may not exactly be lean turkey breast and sprouts on whole wheat, but if KFC can successfully link its entrées to healthy-eating habits, Yum! Brand's shareholders could be the ones getting fat in the future.
W.D. Crotty owns stock in YUM! Brands and McDonald's, but not Wendy's. You can e-mail him at HawaiiFool@hawaii.com. If you would like to bake KFC biscuits at home, or have Mom bake them for Thanksgiving, here is the recipe.