KFC losing gamble on bunless Double Down sandwich

KFC double down sandwichAccording to the documentary Super Size Me, Americans spend more than $110 billion on fast food annually. This year, KFC's greatly heralded, "bunless" Double Down chicken sandwich featuring bacon and cheese layered between two fried chicken filets, took a smaller-than-expected bite out of that pie, selling only 10 million sandwiches since its debut April 12.

Priced at $4.99 each, that means the company rang up approximately $49.9 million on one sandwich in four months. Although the numbers are nothing to balk at, CNNMoney reported the profits were chicken feed. In an article entitled KFC's Double Down Fails to Take Off, Rich Carucci chief financial officer of Yum Brands, KFC's parent company, referred to the sales as "immaterial", and financial analyst Mitchell Speiser of Buckingham Research Group, Inc. estimated that the sandwich contributed a paltry 5% of the company's overall sales. To be considered a true fast food favorite, Speiser said sales should earn, "north of ten percent." Is Jillian Michaels getting through to us?

On a recent trip to KFC, a giant poster of the "New Double Down" stood prominently at the entrance to the counter, doing its best to entice shoppers into spending that extra 5%. Instead, I overheard this exchange as two women appraised the super-sized poster:

"Agh. What is that?"

Friend's response: "It looks like a heart attack." The woman then estimated the sandwich at upwards of 1,300 calories.

Actually, the Double Down ranks only 6the highest in calorie count at KFC behind the 64-ounce Pepsi, 800 calories; the Famous Bowl of Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, 700 calories, and the Chicken Pot Pie, 690 calories to name a few.

The "original recipe" Double Down weighs in at a hefty 540 calories with 32 grams of fat, and the grilled version is 460 calories with 23 grams of fat. David Novak, chief executive for Yum Brands called the sandwich "a big eat."

On the Weight Watchers plan, the Double Down would add up to 12 points. Those adhering to the Atkins Diet, should note that the Double Down contains the most protein (53 grams) of all KFC choices. Still, I'm not sure fried food was what Dr.Atkins had in mind.

Doing my bit as an intrepid reporter, I ordered the Original Recipe Double Down to split with a friend and asked the cashier, Flora, how the sandwiches were selling. "When they first came out, they were selling like crazy," she reported, but lately, not so much. In fact, there's a new menu item eating up the attention, the chicken "Doublicious", and it comes complete with a serious set of buns.

The Double Down was not as messy as I had anticipated. Yes, our fingers were greasy, but it was no different than picking up fried chicken. As Novak suggested, the sandwich was definitely a "big eat" and I was glad I was sharing. After eating only half the sandwich, sans fries or sides, my friend and I were full. Consuming big chunks of meat stacked on top of one another will do that. We both agreed it's probably not something we'd get a hankering for anytime soon.

Maybe that's what happened to the people who ordered the first 10 million Double Downs.

According to Super Size Me, one in four Americans visits a fast food restaurant every day. That means millions of people have chosen not to Double Down. Are we really starting to make healthier choices, or are we, perhaps, just a nation addicted to carbs?

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