Revolutionizing Fried Chicken: Kroger's Packaging Makeover

Discover the crispy transformation of Kroger's Fried Chicken with innovative packaging. Enhance your shopping experience with flavorful and convenient options

Revolutionizing Fried Chicken: Kroger's Packaging Makeover

Time-strapped consumers have come to depend on the convenience and homemade quality of freshly prepared meal options served up in the deli departments of their local supermarkets. One item continuing to grow in popularity is fried chicken. According to a recent report from AyrKing Corp., “The Fried Chicken Factor: A Meal on the Rise,” fried chicken has begun to stake its claim as a go-to meal, not just in restaurants, but in retail settings. Among consumer preferences for retail-purchased fried chicken are convenience, flavor quality, freshness, minimal processing, and flavor consistency.

In late spring 2023, grocery retailer Kroger and its fried chicken provider, Home Chef, realized their fried chicken product was failing to deliver on these consumer requirements, necessitating some significant product and packaging changes. According to Home Chef, after surveying and testing revealed its Fried Chicken & Tenders sold in Kroger Family Stores nationwide were not the crispiest or most flavorful when compared with top-rated retail/QSR chicken, its culinary team embarked on a six-month redevelopment project along with (unnamed) packaging innovators to improve the offering.

Recipe changes included double breading each piece of chicken by hand, using ingredients such as tapioca starch and potato starch to maximize breading hold and crunch, and incorporating 10 spices in the breading to season each bite. To ensure the improvements to the recipe resulted in a crispier, crunchier Fried Chicken texture, however, Kroger and Home Chef also needed to make changes in the packaging.

As Jason Broadrick, category manager at Kroger, explains, Home Chef’s existing clamshell packaging was made entirely of plastic and had no venting holes, which meant condensation from the warm chicken would become trapped inside the package, and the chicken would lose its crispy texture. Therefore, package ventilation was key.

“During R&D, we tested a variety of packaging types, including a package that was similar to the previous plastic clamshell with added ventilation,” says Broadrick. “Ultimately, a paper-based package was the most successful in maintaining the chicken’s crunchy, crispy texture.”

The new paperboard gable box with handle is designed with ventilation holes in the side panels that allow steam to escape and help maintain the crunchy texture of the chicken. To preserve the box’s structure, an aqueous coating is used on the outside of the carton. In addition, a piece of wax paper is placed inside the box before the chicken is added to aid in grease resistance. The box also features a window with an anti-fog coating that lets consumers see the product inside.

Aesthetics were also important to the redesign, shares Broadrick. For branding purposes, the previous packaging used a printed paperboard sleeve culminating with a handle on the top of the clamshell. “Our teams knew the new packaging should not only enhance the Home Chef Fried Chicken product, but also be easily portable for a seamless shopping experience,” says Broadrick. “We also considered the color of the packaging. Not only does the bright blue stand out against the golden brown chicken, which can be seen through the transparent window in the box, but customers will recognize the color from the products’ previous packaging, so they can easily find the updated chicken items on shelves.”

Home Chef’s revamped Fried Chicken, including eight-piece meals, a la carte pieces, and tenders, debuted in the new packaging in deli department warmers nationwide at participating Kroger stores, among them Kroger, Dillons, Smith’s, Fry’s, Ralphs, QFC, and others, in November 2023.


Keywords

Fried Chicken , Packaging Innovation , Kroger , Home Chef , Culinary Redesign

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