KFC has sent a chicken sandwich into the stratosphere and offered a fried chicken corsage for prom dates. The company's big on marketing stunts, so you could be excused if you thought that "pickle fried chicken" was another.
Starting today, it's not. The brand is combining a fried chicken sandwich with a dill pickle sauce that is getting some raves, including from equity researcher Mark Kalinowski was "delightfully surprised", according to MarketWatch.
Some weeks ago, Sonic introduced a pickle juice slush. A food writer called it "surprisingly delicious."
What's next, something with pickles that's "delightfully surprisingly delicious?"
This is a case of KFC and Sonic following a trail, not blazing one. Pickles are popping up everywhere -- well, more than they were, which had seemed already ubiquitous.
A Disneyland eating establishment added a pickle-topped pizza, supposedly inspired by aliens from the Toy Story movie franchise.
They're coming for our pickles. I knew it.
Or maybe it's we're coming for our pickles.
A Google search didn't turn up that combination with the word pickle, but I did come across a report that pickle company Van Holten's is selling frozen pops made of pickle brine.
Look a bit more and you find, like Refinery29 did, that unusual pickle applications have been building for a few years. There was canned pickle juice, pickle-flavored candy canes, and pickle flavor in the form of vodka, popcorn, chips, and more.
This shouldn't be surprising. I've known people -- you may have as well -- who preferred something smacking of vinegar to a sweet treat. If McDonald's has sold billions and billions of hamburgers, how many pickle slices, which match well for many to the fat and salt of the patties and slightly sweet of the rolls. Pickles are a constant with sandwiches and regularly served with dishes washed down with a sweet soda.
It's easy to rely on an uninformed personal peccadillo and dismiss an idea out of hand before we've given it some thought. Pickles are sour, so to an unexpected use we say, "Oh, that is the worst idea ever," without reflection on how often we favor a vinegar taste in connection with something completely different.
Someone at these fast food companies paid attention to customers, even digging up what consumers might have assumed they wouldn't want. None of these combos get served without significant development and testing. If you've ever read or heard about how new recipes are developed, you'd know that the people behind them are pretty sure they will work before there's even a small market test.
The potential problem in developing new ideas and marketing them is that we, and everyone else, are often certain that we know what we will want or do even though afterthought and evidence show we haven't a clue. This is why smart market researchers have to somewhat discount the responses to such survey questions as what someone would spend on a product or how frequently they'd buy it.
There's also a second layer of smart marketing that MarketWatch noted: Younger consumers may try something, even a neon green Sonic pickle slush, to try it and post on social media, expanding the reach. Remember, there have been youth who ate laundry detergent pods because it became a thing. Surely even a pickle slush has to be tastier.