Last month, Technomic discussed several general findings from its “2014 Sandwich Consumer Trend Report.” This month will shine a brighter light on a perennial favorite: chicken sandwiches.

Chicken offers an ideal platform for showcasing standout sandwich recipes and preparations—both because of chicken’s flavor versatility and because of consumers’ strong affinity for chicken breast sandwiches. In fact, two thirds of consumers report that they purchase a chicken breast sandwich away from home once a month or more. And one third of consumers (including 40% of those ages 18-44) say they’re more likely to try new and unique flavors on sandwiches than on other types of foods.

Look at several recently introduced (or in-test) chicken sandwiches from restaurant chains. For menu and product developers alike, these new offerings point to emerging flavor and ingredient trends worth watching and exploring in 2014.


SANDWICH: Buttermilk Baked Chicken Sandwich
CHAIN: Alonti Catering Cafe
Description: A crispy, breaded chicken breast is topped with bacon, roasted poblano peppers, caramelized onions, American cheese, a fresh spring mix, chipotle horseradish and honey mustard in this new offering from fast-casual concept Alonti. The kicker? It’s served on jalapeño cornbread. Crispy chicken sandwiches are experiencing something of a renaissance across the country, with new, independent fried-chicken specialists proliferating in cities like Chicago. The use of buttermilk suggests a more-traditional, Southern-style chicken recipe. In addition, chipotle horseradish adds the spicy heat that most consumers now say they enjoy.

SANDWICH: Guacamole Chicken Sandwich
CHAIN: McDonald’s
Description: Hass avocado guacamole, pico de gallo, lettuce and white Cheddar are layered on crispy or grilled chicken in this sandwich being tested in Denver. (A guacamole burger also is in test.) Technomic’s MenuMonitor online resource finds that appearances of “avocado” and “guacamole” in chicken sandwich menu descriptions climbed more than 4% from Q1 2013 to Q1 2014. Avocados have come to be embraced as a natural source of “good fats,” and creamy guacamole can serve to balance spicy or acidic toppings.

SANDWICH: Jack’s Blazin’ Chicken Sandwich
CHAIN: Jack in the Box
Description: The limited-time-offer Blazin’ Chicken takes limited-service restaurants’ hotter-than-thou competition to new heights with the use of super-spicy ghost peppers. The peppers’ heat is tempered by the creaminess of the ranch sauce in which they’re used. Jack in the Box promises this is the chain’s hottest sandwich yet, made with spicy crispy chicken, the ghost pepper-ranch sauce, sliced jalapeños, cheese, lettuce, tomato and grilled onions. For consumers (especially young males) who crave heat, next-level-spicy condiments, such as sriracha, ghost pepper, habanero or piri chile sauces, can draw attention—and sales.

SANDWICH: Chicken Francese Sandwich
CHAIN: Chart House
Description: This first-quarter debut from casual-dining chain Chart House features grilled, herbed chicken served with shaved lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and tzatziki sauce. Grilled chicken retains its popularity as a more healthful protein option, and savvy operators are upping the flavor ante with herbs and other natural, low-fat flavorings. Mediterranean ingredients continue to move into the mainstream, and cool-and-creamy tzatziki sauce offers an approachable way to exploit growing consumer interest in the tastes of this region.