KFC Takes Back Its Middle Name. Can Big Food Make Fat Phat?

Kentucky Fried Chicken finally woke up and is planning to take back its middle name and give up the monogram brand, KFC, it has used for several years when its marketers thought

Kentucky Fried Chicken finally woke up and is planning to take back its middle name and give up the monogram brand, KFC, it has used for several years when its marketers thought "Fried" was a dirty word.

I have worked in the food industry before, right in the kitchen. Believe me. The fry oil is dirty. But it's what gives golden pieces of chicken and french fries the mouth coating addictive feeling of "I gotta get me some fried chicken and french fries."

The food industry is going through an interesting period. A report out of the Centers for Disease Control recently said about 112,000 deaths in 2000 were blamed on obesity, much lower than a highly publicized figure released in March 2004 when other CDC researchers estimated that about 400,000 deaths were associated with obesity, poor diet and inactivity.

There is traction right now in the marketplace for an argument that states obesity is not the problem the food police have made it out to be. This stems largely from the CDC's back-tracking and the fact that the insurance company weight tables that obesity rates are based on are out-dated. And they are off-base. At 5'11, I should weigh around 170 pounds. I don't. And I never will. That's not to say that I can't live healthfully at 190 or 210. So at 210, if I can ever get there, would I be obese? Nah.

The larger number from the CDC's earlier study includes obese and overweight people. The smaller number includes only the obese--30 pounds or more over a healthy weight. About a third of Americans are obese and are at increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and other diseases.

Back to KFC. They are going back to Fried and using Colonel Sanders (as this blog recommended months ago) because they find the fried food they have sells best--much better than the so-called healthy stuff. Last year, KFC got slapped by the FTC for stretching ad claims that suggested a KFC fried chicken breast was healthier than a Burgher King Whopper. Sure, it has slightly less total fat and saturated fat than a Whopper, but it has more than three times the trans fat and cholesterol, more than twice the sodium, and more calories, the FTC said. They added that the suggestion that fried chicken could be part of a low-carb diet was false because such programs like the Atkins Diet and the South Beach Diet advise against eating breaded, fried foods.

So, now its no more apologizing for fat, grease and salt. A Kentucky Fried Chicken spokesperson says: "Consumers tell us they love Kentucky Fried Chicken. And many of our customers never stopped calling us Kentucky Fried Chicken." Bravo. Truth in advertising.

I can't help but draw a comparison between what KFC is doing and what the Republican Party has done so well to galvanize its base. It doesn't pretend to be green. It doesn't applogize for driving SUVs. It has made "liberal" a dirty word and painted the Dems with it until the mass media has basically adopted "liberal" as a four letter word.

There is something to be said, right or wrong, for the success of staying on message.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE