The Chicken Wars

Jul 8, 2021Categories, Savory

Who doesn’t remember this awesome kid when they think of the crazy ‘chicken wars’ the food industry is currently in?

Ditto, my friend. Ditto.

Who doesn’t like fried chicken? Or a good trussed-up roasted chicken? A BBQ chicken breast? Or a basket of buffalo wings with their pizza (shoutout to my Buffalo family!)? Does anyone NOT like chicken? Okay, I know vegetarians might not, but they’ve got their own plant-based chicken wars happening right now, too. I know I’m not alone in my love of this wonderfully delicious blank canvas because the Chicken Wars were on before the pandemic and due to the pandemic, we now have a nationwide chicken wing shortage and the restaurants are still giving us their all when it comes to the best chicken sandwich. I see you KFC and Zaxby’s… ??

What’s the deal?

So, why the shortage? Well, just like anything else at this point, there’s increased demand and shortages due to natural events (Texas storms) and the pandemic. Wings were one of the most sought-after foods during the pandemic (Datassentials), touching on all the amplified trends of comfort, nostalgia, and delightfulness. But it’s also not just chicken wings that seem to be facing shortages. The chicken wars I mention above are making everyone crave a fried chicken sandwich, so demand is skyrocketing. It seems that every fast-food chain is struggling to keep up with the consumer’s desire for the beloved chicken. Even Chick-fil-A announced their famous sauce might face a shortage!

We don’t see this chicken trend going away any time soon: whether you’re looking into the foodservice space or retail; plant-based or traditional meat. So we’re here to help you sort through it all, let’s dig a little into how we can help.

Plant-Based Chicken Development

Have you met our CSI team? No? Let me introduce you to Givaudan’s Consumer Sensory Insights (CSI) Team. The Sensory team is one of the best teams to work with because they’re so thorough. (If you know me, you know I love this team!) They spend time studying entire groups of products in the plant-based space to understand each of the profile and mouthfeels descriptors. They analyze all that data and pump it out to product developers so that you know what “path” to go down when it comes to creating a tasty product. Do consumers want a fatty nugget or a livery nugget? I’m not going to tell you, you’ll have to talk to our Sensory team!

Why is Sensory so important for plant-based product development? Because this space is getting increasingly competitive and developers need to understand WHO their consumers are and WHAT profiles they’re seeking. Developing great plant-based products also comes with various challenges, and requires deep expertise, knowledge of specialist technologies and equipment, and a holistic approach. When you work with Givaudan, you have access to this amazing team’s insights and then we can help you apply flavors that help your products rise above the rest.

Click here to download our Plant-based Food Experiences Report to start creating market-winning plant-based food experiences based in CSI!


Selecting Flavor

“It’s not always about the chicken itself!” I know, I hear you! And I have to tell you, I love sauces. The sauce really is the hero in a lot of ways: whether plant-based or in traditional foods. Sauce is king. Sometimes I like the fattiness of mayo and sometimes I crave the smoky BBQ flavor – and sometimes I wax nostalgic and pick my childhood favorite, sweet and sour sauce. But 35% of consumers put spreads/sauces on foods to make them more exciting (Mintel). So here’s are a few sauce options that consumers may be interested in when it comes to chicken wings.

We asked consumers: Which of the following sauce flavors would you be interested in on chicken wings?

  1. Creamy Parmesan Garlic
  2. Smoked Honey Glaze
  3. Honey Chipotle BBQ
  4. Smoked Parmesan
  5. Honey Habenero BBQ
  6. Brown Sugar BBQ
  7. Honey Bourbon Mustard Glaze
  8. Bourbon/Whiskey BBQ
  9. Sweet Rum and Pineapple Glaze
  10. Roasted Apple BBQ
  11. Chipotle Lime Sauce
  12. Roasted Garlic Cotija and Cilantro
  13. Blackberry & Bourban BBQ
  14. White BBQ Sauce

Take a look at the overlaps in flavors here: we see a lot of sweet and savory options, honey is a favorite flavor as is BBQ, and what about some of those trailblazing sauces starting with the sweet rum and pineapple glaze? These are wonderful insights to build new sauces or even dry rubs – OR how can you use these insights to build a chicken sandwich that may be appealing to consumers? Let’s take the #7 favorite sauce here, the honey bourbon mustard glaze – how about a sandwich topped with sweet bourbon bacon and a honey mustard glaze with some tomato, lettuce, and throw in some carmelized onions just because?

Want more insights on what your target consumers may want? Or have a specific application you’re needing to reinvent with some sauces? How about spicing up your sauce bases with a few new flavor extensions? Contact your Account Manager and we can hone in on preferences for a specific restaurant or retail brand’s consumer!

The Year of the Chicken

Even our Global counterparts are in on the chicken wars! Our European protein group has designated 2021 the “Year of the Chicken”, looking at the best and most traditional of all flavors related to chicken. Can this promotion help you hone in on a tastier – or more authentic – chicken product? Check out more about the European promotion by clicking here.

Lucas Huber

“Due to its outstanding taste and versatility, chicken continues to triumph in our European markets. While consumers’ desire for chicken remains at an all-time high, many aspects of production and consumption are evolving. Our strong focus on chicken in 2021 allows us to provide outstanding solutions to create lasting food experiences with our customers, whether culinary, meat, or plant-based.”

– Lucas Huber, Category Manager Proteins EAME

If you’re interested in finding out more about chicken flavors to boost your products, whether for broths, deli meats, gravies, or more, let us know at or reach out to your Account Manager. We also know the importance of sauce, so don’t hesistate to discover more sauce insights too!



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