Wendy's is spending $30 million to shrink the size of the chickens used to make the fillets in its sandwiches and salads in response to customer complaints about the rubbery texture of its chicken products.
The fast-food chain has been working with suppliers over the last couple months to reduce its average chicken size by up to 20%, the company told Business Insider.
The meat from the smaller chickens tastes better and customers rate it as more tender and flavorful, according to Gail Venrick, senior director of protein procurement for Wendy's.
"It's about the texture and how juicy it is," Venrick said of the change.
The new fillets started rolling out in restaurants last month, and will be available at all restaurants by the end of the second quarter.
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Wendy's started looking for ways to improve its chicken products a couple years ago.
The company started by revamping its marinade recipe, and then changed the cooking process so that the chicken is thawed before cooking, instead of cooked from a frozen state. Wendy's also vowed to remove artificial colors, preservatives and MSG across all its chicken menu offerings.
The changes improved the taste of its chicken, according to the company. But Wendy's still heard recurring complaints from customers about the "rubbery" texture of its chicken fillets.
"So we started working in partnership with [suppliers] to understand what was going on with our chicken overall," said Wendy's head of communications Liliana Esposito.
It turns out that the rubbery texture isn't unique to Wendy's chicken — it's a problem that has been plaguing the entire fast-food industry, Esposito said.
By working with suppliers, Wendy's discovered a way to avoid that problematic texture.
"By specifying a smaller overall bird size on average we were able to get a better quality fillet," Esposito said.
This doesn't mean that the chain is breeding a new kind of chicken. Its suppliers are now harvesting the animals sooner, before they grow too big.
Does that mean the size of Wendy's chicken sandwiches will change?
No, not according to Esposito.
"There will be no impact on the size of the fillets," she said.
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