When Tyson Food Service executives decided that the time was right to revitalize the company’s value-added line of chicken products, they first took a close look at the state of the foodservice marketplace.
“If you look at what’s happening in the foodservice industry, you can see that both operators and consumers need some relief,” said Rodger Starnes, vice president of foodservice marketing and customer development for Tyson Foods Inc. in Springdale, Ark.
“Chicken plays such a valuable role on menus today,” he said. “So we asked what can we do to help operators lower their food cost, while at the same time improve taste and performance.”
The initiative resulted in the launch of Tyson’s new Red Label Product Line, which was developed to reduce food cost for operators by up to 20 percent. While only weeks into the rollout, it already ranks as the “best-selling item we’ve launched in 10 years,” Starnes said.
Once the company decided to develop the product, it fast-tracked the project.
“Normally, it takes us 12 to 18 months to develop a new product,” Starnes said. “But we decided to shorten the window on this to four months.”
In addition to gathering operator input, Tyson convened a development team that included experts from research and development, culinary, marketing, and operational departments. They started work on the project Oct. 15, and the official rollout began in February.
The Red Label line is prepared from 100-percent breast meat and offers a range of breaded and unbreaded chicken products developed to address the growing demand for chicken in the foodservice marketplace.
For instance, Tyson says Americans consumed 1.5 billion grilled-chicken sandwiches in 2009. Sandwiches and other boneless, grilled-chicken items account for more than 34 percent of all chicken consumed in restaurants.
Meanwhile, menu items utilizing boneless breaded chicken products account for 64 percent of all chicken items ordered in foodservice operations.
But in addition to helping operators manage rising food costs, the Red Label line’s flavor profile has been upgraded by Tyson, Starnes said.
“We wanted to improve the line’s flavor performance and appearance as well,” he said. “We made the flavors taste as clean and as much like chicken as possible.”
For example, roasted, boneless, un-breaded chicken is flavored with carrots, onion and celery to help provide a more naturally roasted taste, Starnes said. Grilled items, on the other hand, are simply seasoned with salt and pepper, and then seared with grill marks.
In the breaded line, Tyson’s Hot ‘N Spicy items are flavored with cayenne pepper and black pepper, which contribute to its appearance. The line also offers a Homestyle breaded product, which is seasoned with white and black pepper and a little garlic, and Golden Crispy.
Both the breaded and unbreaded lines are available in various sizes and shapes. Starnes said Red Label products are available in three different pricing tiers.
He said the company is targeting operators across all foodservice segments: regional chains, independents, schools, stadiums, C-stores, business and industry, and hospitals.
“We know that foodservice employs millions of people,” Starnes noted. “When unemployment stabilizes, people will begin to eat out more. We want operators to be as profitable as possible and hire more people.”