2019-2020 SPIRIT OF INNOVATION AWARD WINNERS
BEST FOODSERVICE PRODUCT: FRONT OF HOUSE
TYSON CRISPY THIGH STRIPS / TYSON FOODSERVICE
Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Although that age-old question remains, it appears another question has been answered by Tyson Foods and its Tyson Foodservice Group. Boneless chicken thigh wings really do exist!
Last February saw foodservice distributing giant Sysco Corp. approve and start selling Tyson Crispy Thigh Wings. These are boneless, skinless, whole muscle chicken thigh portions uniquely cut to look and eat just bone-in wings. It’s all to give consumers the tender, juicy taste of wings they crave—but without the bones.
“Operators are always looking for a wing replacement that will provide their customers with an alternative that will meet their ‘wing craving,’” says Lyn Robertson, MS, CCS, Director of Customer Focused innovation-Poultry & Prepared. “This is a truly unparalleled eating experience. Operators and consumers will be pleasantly surprised that what looks and eats much like a bone-in wing—is actually a boneless whole muscle thigh. Unlike traditional boneless wings, the thigh meat adds flavor, juiciness, and texture that better mimics the experience of eating a bone-in wing, just without the bone.”
Speaking of pleasing operators, Sysco accepted and recognized the product in its Cutting Edge Solutions program (CES) under the Tyson brand. It started distribution February 2020.
Robertson credits Missy Engel, Food Scientist II, for the product’s initial R&D efforts. Back in August 2017, Tyson tasked Engel to find a way to “value-up” dark meat. After cutting the thigh a certain way, she discovered that the portioned pieces looked like wings after they were fried. She then applied for a patent to protect the portioning process and two years later it was finalized.
Robertson also credits other team members for joining in during the process. She notes that Alisha Deakins, Senior Manager Product Development, finalized the product. More specifically, she figured out how to take the process from hand portioning to machine cutting—all to commercialize such an item for Sysco.
“Tyson Crispy Thigh Wings are customizable just like traditional bone-in wings and they offer speed in back-of-house preparation,” says Robertson. “Meanwhile, this Tyson patented innovation creates a wow for consumers once they pick up the product and experience it for themselves.”