Popeyes adds nuggets to its menu, looks to build on smash hit chicken sandwich

Popeyes (QSR) is adding chicken nuggets to its menu, using the same recipe as the hotly-coveted chicken sandwich that's been a runaway hit for the restaurant chain.

The addition of the white meat chicken nuggets, with options ranging from 4 piece to 36 pieces, are set to hit menus beginning July 27 in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. 

The fast food giant is hopeful this launch will match the reception that greeted its fried chicken sandwich back in August of 2019. 

That menu item sparked the now famous chicken sandwich war across the industry, with McDonald's (MCD), Wendy's (WEN), Shake Shack (SHAK), and KFC (YUM) and others all joining the battle. Both Wendy's and McDonald's have also launched their own spicy version of the menu item.

"We think we did it again with chicken nuggets," the company boasted in a statement. "We have invested the time to perfect a product that leverages our classic techniques and Louisiana flavors that will change how people think about and experience Chicken Nuggets," Popeye's added. 

The chicken is marinated for at least 12 hours, hand battered and bread, then slow cooked "to perfection" with a special frying process, Popeye's added.

According to Sean Dunlop, Morningstar Equity analyst, customers returned to "familiar favorites" during the pandemic, leaning into comfort food like fried chicken sandwiches, steak and pizza.

As a result, "larger, trust companies with robust digital capabilities" got a boost as consumers sought out value-oriented and affordable options, Dunlop told Yahoo Finance in an email. However, chicken nuggets in particular are popular for a couple of reasons.

"As chicken consumption continues to increase in the U.S. and globally, they bolster a platform that figures to become increasingly prevalent over the next few years, especially given relatively low production costs and their ability to cater to a global palette," Dunlop added.

With chains like KFC — which has over 25,000 locations — having a global presence "big burger chains have been hard at work to bolster their chicken platforms, with the success of concepts like Chick-Fil-A and Popeyes serving as one catalyst to drive development in the space," the analyst added.

The launch of the Popeyes chicken sandwich back in 2019 "opened a lot of eyes with respect to the category's strategic importance," Dunlop explained.

Shares of Popeye's parent company Restaurant Brands International are up 16.7% compared to a year ago, while shares are up a little over 5% year to date. 

Brooke DiPalma is a producer and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma or email her at [email protected] Check out her latest:

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