Chicken is highly versatile, appeals to all ages and can be easily adapted to any menu – just some of the reasons why consumption continues to grow
For many years chicken has been touted as a healthy and sustainable protein, but it’s also quick and easy to cook and extremely versatile, which is why it’s loved by consumers and operators in equal measure.
It also helps explain the continuing surge in chicken shops opening on UK high streets offering everything from fillets in buns, wings in buckets and goujons in wraps. Research by Datassential SNAP in 2021 found that chicken is the most popular protein, visible on 95.5% of menus and enjoyed by consumers throughout the day.
With the price of fish continuing to soar due to post-pandemic inflationary rises and the ongoing war in Ukraine, chicken is a relatively cost effective way for friers to diversify their menus.
“The aim is not to replace the main event, but to provide a high quality alternative that will keep customers coming back to try new menu options,” says Antony Higgs, markeing manager at Meadow Vales Foods, which offers a range of products from salt & chilli shredded chicken to buttermilk fillets.
Marcus Kay of Kay’s Chippy in Rawtenstall, Rossendale, has recently added chicken to the menu. Creating two chicken boxes using Meadow Vale’s Salt and Pepper Chicken, one served with curry sauce and chips and another with a Thai sauce and rice, they are now the second biggest seller after fish and chips.
“We’re getting customers coming in more times a week because we’re offering something a little bit different,” explains Marcus. “There’s only so many times a week you can eat fish and chips, pie and all the rest of it.”
Utilising frozen battered or breaded products is the quickest and easiest way to offer chicken as it’s ready on hand, nothing goes to waste and easy portion control allows for better cost management, which has never been more important at a time of unprecedented inflation and risk of business closures.
“The tight calibration of Meadow Vale products combined with precise number-counted bags makes sense for chippies looking to cut costs, all while maintaining a high quality menu offering,” adds Meadow Vale’s Antony.
Frozen food distributor Central Foods also offers a range that has been designed with the end-user in mind, with Gordon Lauder, managing director, saying: “The Golden Valley Foods range provides poultry products which are of a consistent quality and consistent size, helping fish and chip shop operators with menu planning and profitability. Boxes are supplied in small sizes to help free up frozen storage space and to help with cash flow.”
Coating and flavourings
There is, of course, the option to prepare your own chicken, which means you can tap into a whole host of coatings and marinades that are continually being updated to reflect changing trends. Middleton Foods, for example, has recently added spicier breadings and gluten free options to its Rooster’s range in a bid to help shops increase footfall – in particular, attract the younger demographic into a business – and increase profits.
Wayne Gambell, Middletons regional sales manager, says its breading can be used in a pressure fryer or open fryer but comments: “Keep it simple. Offer boneless cuts that can be fried in your frying range. Consider investing in a pressure fryer if your demand is high and offer chicken thighs, chicken breast and chicken leg options. And encourage the customer to spend more with a meal deal.”
To help shops achieve the best results, Middletons offers full training as well as samples to try before committing. “Please get in touch for a call or visit,” adds Wayne.
Thurnscoe-based Rupert’s Ingredients also offers a range of breadings, including a one mix product consisting of seasoning and flour that it says will appeal to the majority of taste buds, as well as a two-step product which consists of flour and seasoning mix, enabling the spice level to be adjusted to the required level. For an added kick it also offers a range of spicy marinades that can be used alongside its breading for things like hot n’ spicy wings.
If you’re selling serious volumes of chicken there is equipment that will speed up the process if you’re willing to invest. For example, Fast Food Systems offers the Vizu Breading range which it says can do the entire sifting cycle in less than 15 seconds a batch as opposed to four to eight minutes.
While chicken has been relatively cheap up until now, like everything, costs are beginning to rise. The Office of National Statistics recorded a 19% increase in the price of chicken between March 2020 and March 2022, a factor attributed to the war between Russia and Ukraine. The two countries produce a third of the world’s grain, which is a key component in chicken feed. So keep this in mind when working out your costings
Another factor to bear in mind is product availability, says Rachel Shoosmith, marketing manager at Creative Foods, which has just launched a range of 100% chicken breast products under the Harvest Farms brand that includes golden, southern fried, and hot & spicy chicken goujons as well as and bite-sized Pop In chicken pieces.
“Over the last two years, many operators have simplified their menus, and this means that they need to be sure that they can get regular deliveries of the core poultry products required to deliver those menus,” she says. “We are therefore focused on supplying products that are available and help operators to keep their menus on-trend.”
Whether you make your own or buy it in, remember the golden rule – your chicken should match the quality of your fish and chips, so don’t settle for anything less. And make sure the chicken you use is responsibly sourced and of a high grade.
Central Foods 01604 858522 www.centralfoods.co.uk
Creative Foods 01252 846500 www.creativefoods.co.uk
Fast Food Systems 01189 441100 www.fast-food-systems.co.uk
Meadow Vale Foods 01978 666100
Middleton Food Products 01902 608122 www.middletonfoods.com
Rupert’s Ingredients 01709 891033 www.rupertsingredients.com