Diners hunger for more chicken, new research finds

Shredded Chicken Ceaser Salad

Demand for chicken continues to grow, with over two-thirds of UK diners wanting to see more of it on menus when eating out, according to new research by Moy Park Foodservice.

With 69% calling for more of it, 77% are already choosing to eat chicken at least once a week and 58% are opting to have it twice a week.

Almost half (43%) prefer chicken over other types of meat and poultry when eating out. When asked why, “taste” topped the poll for 60% of diners. In second place, people favoured chicken because they considered it a healthy option (47%), while value for money was cited by 43% of respondents.

Moy Park carried out the research not only to look at the growing demand for chicken but also to provide caterers with inspiration to adapt their menus.

It revealed that tradition remained supreme with the most popular type of chicken-based dish still a roast, preferred by 32% of consumers.

However, the second most popular was the Italian inspired hunter’s chicken – chicken wrapped in bacon in a sauce – which was picked by 14% of diners. This was closely followed by a chicken burger at 12%.

When asked what consumers’ favourite flavours are, barbecue came top, picked by 26% of diners. It was followed by garlic at 20%, while 18% like to turn up the heat with spice.

The research suggested caterers would do well to incorporate chicken into different types of cuisine on the menu with a quarter of diners (24%) saying British-style dishes offer the best variety when it comes to chicken-based meals, followed closely by Chinese at 15% and American at 14%.

A key trend to come out of the research is the demand for consumers to be in control of their meal and build their own dish, with three in four consumers wanting the option to customise their chicken when eating out, whether this be in terms of flavour, spice or heat.

By offering this option, bars and restaurants offer customers not only more choice but widen their menu and, as a result, can appeal to a larger market.

While the research highlights that chicken accounts for 31% of main meals, the findings act as a reminder to caterers that there are plenty of opportunities to add chicken to other parts of the menu too, with 88% of people wanting to see more chicken-based appetisers.

Sandwiches are another area in which caterers can capitalise on this growing trend for chicken, coming out top as people’s preferred filling by almost a third of consumers (29%), beating cheese (18%) and tuna (12%) hands down.

Frannie Santos-Mawdsley, senior customer marketing manager for European Foodservice at Moy Park, said: “Chicken consumption is on the rise and it’s not surprising really as its sheer versatility has mass-market appeal, attracting both young and old as well as male and female customers.

“Chicken is also a popular option for health-conscious consumers, being rich in protein and lower in fat and calories than many red meats.

“Caterers need to be offering customers what they want so they would do well to take these findings on board and analyse their own menu by asking themselves if their current offering is hitting the spot.

“There are a great many ways in which caterers can utilise chicken so that it forms a bigger part on today’s menus. And remember, chicken is versatile, healthy and cheaper than many red meats, which means it’s also extremely profitable too.”

Moy Park continues to extend its ranges, most recently adding Street-Style Pulled Chicken, designed to capitalise on the trend for street food. Further new product development is planned to follow later this year.

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