leasing poultry flavors graphic
Sweet-and-spicy preparations are restaurants’ top choices for chicken and turkey.
More than 60% of U.S. consumers believe that chicken and turkey are more healthful than beef and pork.  With a majority of Americans saying they’re trying to eat more healthfully, poultry consumption is, predictably, on the rise.
In a survey for Technomic’s “Center of the Plate: Poultry Consumer Trend Report,” 89% of consumers said they eat chicken at least occasionally, up from 84% in 2011. Some 54% said the same for turkey, up from 47% in 2011.
Chicken, already a workhorse on menus, because of its lower price point relative to beef and pork -- and its incredible versatility as a flavor vehicle -- has the potential to grow even more. And turkey, despite the fact that it’s increasingly popular with consumers year-round, remains an underutilized protein in foodservice. Realizing poultry’s growth potential requires understanding what consumers see as lacking from poultry selections currently on menus. At the top of that list is variety. 
More than half (55%) of consumers said they’d like to see a wider variety of chicken entrées at restaurants; 48% said the same with respect to chicken sandwiches.
Two fifths want to see greater variety in turkey entrée and sandwich offerings. Moreover, 61% of consumers said they’d be interested in trying chicken entrées made with new or unique flavors, or sauces. About 45% said restaurants should offer more chicken entrées made with ethnic ingredients and flavors.
How to make chicken and turkey stand out in the crowd? On the flavor front, there are two ways to go: big and bold; or light, crisp and fresh. Barbecue hits the right notes for the former, and dishes such as smoked turkey breast or a pulled-chicken sandwich give guests the chance to indulge in the rich, hearty flavors of barbecue, without opting for what they might perceive as less-healthful pork or beef. Earlier this year, Bandana’s Bar-B-Q offered guests the best of both bird worlds, introducing the Wet Bandana, which features chicken and turkey in a spicy barbecue sauce piled on a grilled Bandana’s bun. 
In the light-crisp-fresh category, offerings such as Grand Lux Café’s new Chili-Lime Chicken and Mango Salad -- grilled chicken with sweet mango, avocado, jicama, sweet corn, onions, cilantro and Romaine lettuce tossed with chili-lime vinaigrette -- illustrate that “lighter” chicken offerings can still showcase layers of bright flavors.
Up-and-coming ethnic cuisines, such as those from Vietnam, Portugal, the Middle East and South America, also offer a bevy of bold flavor possibilities for chicken. The Cheesecake Factory’s new Moroccan chicken uses spicy harissa sauce to pack a (customizable) flavor punch; the dish features grilled, marinated chicken -- sauce served on the side -- over pearl couscous with asparagus, almonds, golden raisins and onions. 
For guests not interested hot and spicy, there are still ways to offer big flavors. Carrabba’s caters to diners seeking flavor without heat with the new “40 Cloves of Garlic Chicken:” an oven-roasted chicken breast and drummette served with house-made, 40-cloves-of-garlic au jus, a roasted rosemary potato medley and the vegetable of the day.