NEW YORK — In case Americans want to scarf down their fast-food even faster, KFC is stripping the bones out of its chicken.
The fast-food chain says it will introduce deep-fried boneless chicken pieces on April 14 as an alternative to its traditional breast, thigh and drumstick pieces.
The new offering reflects the growing popularity of nuggets and strips that are easier to eat on the go, as well as Americans’ seemingly endless desire for more-convenient foods. KFC says nearly four out of five servings of chicken sold in the U.S. are now boneless.
Based on customer trends, the chain says bones could eventually disappear from its menu.
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“Younger people don’t tend to be fans of bones — they’ve grown up with nuggets,” said KFC spokesman Rick Maynard, referring to people in their 20s and 30s.
Although KFC has more than 18,000 locations worldwide, the boneless chicken will be offered only in its 4,500 U.S. locations.
The new chicken, which is skinless and comes in white or dark meat, are whole muscle pieces fileted off the bone and are about twice the size of KFC’s crispy strips. Customers will be able to order them for the chain’s meal deals, which include two pieces of chicken, a side, a biscuit and a drink for $4.99.
They also will come in buckets, including four pieces of boneless chicken and six pieces of breasts, thighs and drumsticks for $14.99. The boneless-chicken option will cost the same as the regular fried chicken.
A piece of the boneless white meat has 200 calories and 8 grams of fat. A dark-meat piece has 250 calories.
Even before the latest launch, KFC already had been shifting its menu to more boneless offerings. It rolled out smaller chicken “Bites” last year, as well as “Dip’ems,” which are strips of chicken with a variety of sauces.
The chain had also been offering the chicken filets used in its sandwiches as a stand-alone, handheld option. The chain says those will be phased out and that the new boneless pieces will be used in sandwiches.
KFC says it took two to three years to develop its version of boneless chicken, which performed strongly in test markets including Oklahoma City and Omaha last year.
Like McDonald’s and Burger King, chicken chain Chick-fil-A offers nuggets, strips and sandwiches, but doesn’t list any chicken pieces with bones on its menu. Although McDonald’s recently tested chicken wings at select locations, the world’s biggest hamburger chain has also focused on convenience options such as its new chicken McWraps and chicken McBites that come in portable cartons.
Howard Penney, a food-industry analyst for Hedgeye Risk Management, noted that KFC has been struggling in the U.S. and that it has nothing to lose with the latest move. Even in the wings category, Penney noted that boneless varieties have been growing in popularity.
“People don’t want to have to deal with the bones,” Penney said.