KFC Partnership Putting U.S. Cheese into International Marketplace

Rebecca MacKay Allen, Senior Vice President, Global Innovation Partnerships, Dairy Management Inc.

Rebecca MacKay Allen

U.S. cheese made its way into the Latin America/Caribbean region last summer in a new way, thanks to a familiar checkoff business model.

Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) has worked in partnership with some of the world’s most recognized foodservice leaders: McDonald’s, Domino’s, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. The volume-driving partnerships leverage DMI’s expertise to advance dairy-centric menu and marketing innovation, brought to life by dairy scientists working at the headquarters of these companies.

The formula has proven long-term success. These partnerships collectively grew U.S. dairy sales by 1.2 billion milk equivalent pounds from 2014-18.

So, it only made sense to take what works so well in the U.S. to the international marketplace. Yum! Brands, the parent company of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC and now Habit Burger, was aligned with DMI to explore ways to innovate with dairy outside of the U.S.

After assessing the marketplace for the best growth potential for U.S. dairy, we expanded our partnership with Pizza Hut to the Asia-Pacific region.

For KFC, the Latin America/Caribbean region made the most sense for proximity and supply chain reasons. It also represents significant potential for U.S. dairy with 657 million people in 41 countries/territories, including Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Panama and Costa Rica.

Interestingly, KFC’s international presence is much larger than it is in the U.S., with more than three-quarters of its stores located beyond our borders. In fact, in some international markets, KFC ranks in the top five of all QSR business.

On-site dairy scientist

Once we settled on this region, DMI’s business model kicked in. KFC’s Latin America/Caribbean headquarters are in South Florida and DMI placed a dairy scientist with years of product development experience at the company’s office. He works alongside the KFC team every day, driving menu innovations that will move more U.S. dairy.

But it’s much more than that. DMI’s research experts helped the KFC Latin America/Caribbean team learn all it could about the tastes and palates of consumers in this region as it relates to cheese. We learned the combination of fried chicken and cheese, which represented the biggest volume opportunity, appealed to consumers.

We also provided foundational knowledge about the various forms, flavors and functionality of U.S. cheese to the company’s leadership and franchisee partners. We worked with the KFC Latin America/Caribbean team to develop more than 70 concepts for chicken and U.S. cheese. The checkoff-created U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) also was at the table to navigate the international landscape. DMI and USDEC showed their role as a convener by identifying U.S. companies that could supply the region with unique, versatile domestic cheeses.

Before long, we had a product to unveil: Chicken & Cheese Pop. It’s a mix of popcorn chicken and cheese curds that are breaded with KFC’s famous “11 herbs and spices.” The product comes in various sizes and contains more than 2 ounces of cheese in each serving.

 





 

KFC used its marketing muscle and resources to promote the product on television and on its social and digital channels. “Made with cheese from the USA” messaging was featured on marketing materials.

Pipeline filled

Like many of the chain’s menu items, Chicken & Cheese Pop was a limited-time-only offering. It was available for eight weeks in more than 300 KFCs in the Latin America/Caribbean region last summer/fall.

While sales results are proprietary, it was well received and is a big win for U.S. cheese as this was the first product to include and showcase U.S. cheese and have cheese featured in a product’s name.

And while Chicken & Cheese Pop is no longer available, this isn’t the end for U.S. dairy in the region. With DMI’s help, there is a robust pipeline of products in the works, and you can expect to see more crave-able chicken-and-cheese items offered this year and in the future. And, like our domestic partnerships, the products will showcase U.S.-sourced dairy!

 





 

We have a strong legacy of using the power of our partners to grow sales of U.S. dairy. Our partners believe in the goodness of dairy and leverage its taste and versatility every day to give consumers what they want.

Having this formula find value beyond our borders is one more way our partners are delivering results for the checkoff and for consumers.

Any thoughts or questions? Contact us at TalkToTheCheckoff@dairy.org.

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