KFC parent Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM) shook up its flavor profile last year with the rollout of Nashville Hot Chicken, and this week it's hoping to get another regionally themed hit with Georgia Gold Honey Mustard BBQ. KFC began offering the new flavor -- inspired by the tangy mustard-based BBQ sauce served in South Carolina and Northern Georgia -- on Monday.
The new flavor is available on KFC's Extra Crispy chicken, tenders, and Chicken Littles. Some stores are also making Georgia Gold available on its grilled chicken and buffalo wings. The meals start at $5.49, just like last year's Nashville Hot Chicken. Both regional flavors will be available nationwide for a limited time.
Yum! Brands is making a big bet on Georgia Gold Honey Mustard BBQ. It's even investing in a Super Bowl commercial that will air during the fourth quarter this weekend, making this the first time that KFC has banked on an in-game Super Bowl spot.
KFC is leading the way at Yum! Brands. Comps rose 4% worldwide for the chain in the third quarter, with stateside same-restaurant sales climbing by an even more impressive 6%. Yum! Brands reports fourth-quarter results next week, giving us an opportunity to update the concept's momentum.
KFC is holding up better than Yum! Brands' two other major brands. Taco Bell checked in with a 3% uptick in comps during the same quarter, with Pizza Hut bringing up the rear with a 1% decline.
The fried chicken chain with more than 20,000 locations worldwide is doing even better on the bottom line. Its core operating profit rose 19% in its latest quarter, well ahead of the single-digit gain at Taco Bell and the outright decline at Pizza Hut.
There's more riding on the stateside success of its chains since Yum! Brands spun off its sizable Chinese operations. If Georgia Gold Honey Mustard BBQ is a hit, it obviously won't be a factor in next week's report. That fiscal quarter wrapped up in December. However, Yum! Brands may be able to provide some color on how this year's rollout is faring relative to last year when it was just Nashville Hot as a seasonal regional specialty. It may also offer some perspective on its big Super Bowl ad.
KFC can't afford to stand still. Burger chains are rolling out premium fried chicken sandwiches, and even Yum! Brands' own Taco Bell turned heads last month with a "naked" chalupa, where a foldable fried chicken patty serves as the outer shell of the delicacy. Offering chicken isn't unique anymore, and Yum! Brands is doing the right thing by making sure that KFC mixes things up as a way to draw attention.