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Beer Can Chicken: Popeyes Seeks Microbrew Mojo

on 24/09/14 at 10:30 am

Booze News

indexNo, you won’t be carded if you order a round of Popeyes’ new Beer Can Chicken.

The chicken has no beer. No alcohol. No fame. But if Popeyes has its way, it will at least attract lots of social media buzz — and sales.

The fast-food chain on Tuesday announced that it had rolled out the limited-time offer nationally through Oct. 25. Unlike more traditional, Southern-influenced beer can chicken, which is commonly made by grilling a whole chicken outdoors with a full can of beer inside, this one’s pretty tame.

The beer flavor in the Popeyes version — which is fried, not grilled — comes from a mixture of marinade seasonings, including garlic, butter, rosemary, onion, cayenne pepper, lemon zest and an undisclosed flavoring. At $3.99, the chicken breast is hand-battered, cut into three strips and served with a spicy dipping sauce, Cajun fries and a biscuit.

“No one in fast food has ever done anything like this,” says Hector Munoz, CMO at Popeyes, in a phone interview. “It’s not about the beer. It’s about the flavor.”

It’s also about the trend. With the wild popularity of craft beer as a driver, beer or beer flavors are showing up in all sorts unlikely restaurant foods and beverages. Starbucks has just begun testing a non-alcoholic coffee that has a beer flavor, and Red Robin has been selling beer shakes for several years.

“There is some craft beer craziness,” says Chris Rice, president and publisher of All About Beer Magazine. “Consumers today want unique experiences, and these brands want to connect with consumers who have high disposable incomes.”

Popeyes has been working on the Beer Can Chicken for years, says Munoz. While Popeyes Beer Can Chicken chicken doesn’t have any beer in it, he says, “It captures the flavors found in beer can chicken.”

Because there’s no beer — and because the product is fried instead of grilled — there were some internal discussions about using the name Popeyes Beer Can Chicken, says Munoz. “But given that we capture the flavors, we decided it was OK to do it.”

The fall timing — with Octoberfests in the air — was not accidental. But executives opted to keep Octoberfest out of the marketing, “because we don’t want to create confusion.”

As if the name Popeyes Beer Can Chicken doesn’t create any of that.

But it also created social media buzz.