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Taco Bell unveils chicken sandwich taco, joining burger giants in widening poultry war

Brooke DiPalma and Alexandra Canal
·3 min read
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The battlefield in the chicken sandwich wars just got that much bigger.

Taco Bell (YUM) on Monday waded into the hot arena with a new menu item, the Crispy Chicken Sandwich Taco. The fast food chain will begin testing in Nashville and Charlotte on March 11, before making a nationwide debut later this year.

Unlike its competitors' sandwiches — which are typically in a bun — Taco Bell's $2.49 version is served in a puffy bread, shaped in the form of a taco. It is filled with a piece of crispy, white-meat tortilla chicken marinated in jalapeno buttermilk, and topped with a signature creamy chipotle sauce.

The taco sandwich is also seasoned with Mexican spices and rolled in a crunchy tortilla chip coating. It also comes in a spicy version, which includes crunchy jalapeño slices "for those who can take the heat," according to a statement from the company, which hinted that more chicken menu items were on the way.

Last week, Burger King (QSR) also leaped into the chicken wars with a new hand-breaded sandwich — just as McDonald's is expected to debut its own version on Wednesday. Recently, Wendy's also rolled out an update to its popular chicken sandwich.

The fight for the hearts and stomachs of consumers is growing more fierce, with a clutch of fast food giants unveiling competitors for Popeye's wildly popular sandwich. As a result, Burger King is planning to release the item nationwide later this year, after a lengthy testing process that began in 2019.

Ellie Doty, chief marketing officer of Burger King, North America, told Yahoo Finance in an interview that the company took its time in an effort to "get it right."

She added: "For us, hand-breading is to chicken what flame-grilling is to burgers so we’ve been working to perfect this hand-breaded chicken sandwich since 2019 from operations to training procedures, we’re focused on getting it right for our guests.”

The company's sandwich includes a white meat chicken breast that is breaded by hand, then served on potato bun with deli pickles, "signature sauce" and available "your way" both original or spicy.

(Courtesy: Taco Bell)
(Courtesy: Taco Bell)

Meanwhile, the chicken sandwich war continues to heat up across the fast food industry, with Wendy's (WEN) unveiling a savory newcomer to its chicken sandwich lineup: the Jalapeño Popper Sandwich.

The sandwich, available nationwide for a limited time, comes in three iterations: Classic, spicy and grilled. The classic version retails for $5.99, and is slathered with jalapeños and flavored cream cheese, along with three slices of bacon and cheddar and pepper jack cheeses. Along with the sandwich, the fast food chain also released a $6.79 fried chicken salad topped with creamy jalapeño ranch.

Since the launch of Popeye's chicken sandwich, consumers have also seen competing versions at other fast food chains including KFC (YUM), Arby’s, Jimmy John’s, and McDonald’s (MCD), which is set to debut Feb. 24.

Shares of Burger King's parent company, Restaurant Brand International (which is also behind the successful Popeyes's chicken sandwich), is down more than 12 percent from a year ago.

Brooke DiPalma is a producer and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @BrookeDiPalma.

Alexandra is a Producer & Entertainment Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193.

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