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Editor, The Konformist
The fast-food giant eating up the world
Thanks to its success in China, Yum!, the owner of KFC, is bigger than McDonald's and it's still growing.
Wednesday, 14 July 2010
The Colonel's army is on the march. Vast swathes of China have fallen under his dominion, and he is making inroads in India and Russia. It is one of the great American conquests of our time: the Kentucky Fried Chickenification of the middle classes in the world's emerging economies. And it all means that KFC's parent company, Yum! Brands, which also owns Pizza Hut and the Mexican food outlet Taco Bell, has earned the exclamation mark on which it insists.
With 37,000 restaurants in 110 countries, Yum! even eclipses that more famous icon of American colonisation, McDonald's, to rank as the world's largest restaurant chain in terms of numbers of outlets. For Yum! the task is to forge onward in this virgin territory, but also to shore up its gains against the hungry McDonald's and other fast-food giants, all the while trying to keep the home fires burning back in the US, where sales are challenging because consumers are watching their wallets and their waistlines. The 23 years since Yum! opened its first KFC in China near Beijing's Tiananmen Square provide a masterclass in overseas expansion. Its success to date has tempted a hundred imitations and whose progress in the future will be one of the most closely watched stories in corporate America.
"Yum!'s is an amazing story about how they conquered China so much earlier than their main rivals," says RJ Hottovy, an analyst at Morningstar. "Part of the reason is that they built up their supply chain and their distribution system quickly, and that is giving them a real competitive advantage. When you are setting up restaurants in new territories it is often difficult to procure packaging and to develop good relationships with suppliers, but Yum! now has a nice little edge."
China has become so important to Yum! that it now splits its sales there into a separate division ranking equal to its US market. Last year, 33 per cent of its operating profits came from China, nudging the 38 per cent from the US, and it sees much greater potential still. Adding in Pizza Hut, which is pitched as a mid-market family dining experience in China, there will be 475 new Yum! outlets in there this year, on top of the record 509 added last year.
There are almost three times as many KFCs now in mainland China than there are McDonald's restaurants, which opened its doors there just three years later, in 1990. Mr Hottovy says competition is hotting up, however. "At the time that Yum! was accelerating in China, McDonald's was working on a turnaround in the US, but since that has been completed, it has turned its attention to international expansion in a big way and is planning to double its presence in China, so the competition for Yum is going to be increasing," he said.
"McDonald's, with its well-known brand, its advertising and its scale, will be a major player. But there is room for both. This is all about the rise of the middle-income consumer in China that is fuelling the growth, the story that we hear so much about."
All of the Yum! brands are storied American companies. KFC was founded by Harland Sanders in 1952, when he was already an established Kentucky businessman and had earned the title "Kentucky Colonel" for his services to the state. Pizza Hut traces its history back almost as far, and the younger Taco Bell, whose growth has mirrored the growth of the Mexican community and the popularity of its cuisine, was founded in 1962. The three chains were pulled together by Pepsi, the drinks-maker, which ran a restaurant division until 1997, when it decided to spin off the lot.
The growth trajectory in China has not been without its setbacks, including a dip in sales at existing restaurants there in 2005, but David Novak, the former Pepsi executive who has been Yum! chief executive since 2000, boasts that the company's infrastructure in China will not only carry it through but allow it to best its rivals. "China is predicted to be the fastest-growing major economy in the world," he said in the company's latest annual report. "In fact, it is expected to grow its middle class from around 300 million today to 500 million people in 2020. Like I've said in the past, we will no doubt have some bumpy years, but I wouldn't trade our long-term position in China with any consumer company in the world."
It is worth remembering that what Yum! is doing has never been done before. Who really knows what the Chinese appetite for Western-style fast food really will turn out to be? Both KFC and Pizza Hut have adapted their menus to local tastes, and their advertising, too. But, continuing with its second-quarter results last night, the focus is shifting to other expansion opportunities in China and beyond. The company is trialling a new Chinese food chain, called East Dawning, so that it can use its formidable distribution infrastructure for a more diverse range of brands and cuisines just in case.
And then there are the other emerging markets. Yum has more than 70 KFCs in India, as well as 160 Pizza Huts, and it just opened its first Taco Bell in the country in March. It promises to hit 1,000 outlets in total by 2015, employing 50,000 people and raking in $100m in operating profit. Meanwhile, Mr Novak is hoping to engineer a dramatic expansion of Taco Bell, too. "Two global brands and one on the way," he is fond of saying.
Taco Bell, with its menu of Mexican staples, from burritos and nachos to tacos, brought in just 3 per cent of its sales from outside the US in 2008, but that low figure was not for want of trying. The chain has attempted launches across the world on several occasions since the Eighties, but never gained popular acceptance. It is only now sticking a toe back into the European market, with a return to the UK via a first outlet in the Lakeside shopping centre, which opened two weeks ago.
In the US, the focus is on sprucing up the menus across the Yum! outlets, and that means making them healthier. At KFC, less chicken is being fried (hence a preference for using the initials) and more is being grilled. At Pizza Hut, putting chicken wings on a wider menu has helped reverse a slide in revenues, while Taco Bell is pushing salads. More important perhaps to the company's financial health is a move to switch the US business from being owned and operated directly by Yum! from its headquarters at 1,900 Colonel Sanders Lane in Louisville, Kentucky, to being run by franchisees. The revenue from licence fees is lower, but at least it is stable and the margins are higher.
In short, the stagnation of its US business does not mean that an American corporation is doomed to stagnate itself, if it can seize opportunities around the world. Yum! is on course to boost earnings by 10 per cent this year, despite falling like-for-like sales in the US. It has peppered its missives to investors with fighting talk, promising to "dramatically improve" its US brands and "aggressive international expansion", with 1,400 new outlets in 2010. It doesn't plan to lose that exclamation mark, and wants to live up to its description of itself: "The defining global company that feeds the world."
Yum! Brands in numbers
509 new restaurants opened in China in 2009
2,950 branches of Kentucky Fried Chicken in China
1,100 branches of McDonald's in China
21 East Dawning Chinese food outlets
$19bn Yum! market capitalisation
440% share price rise since 2000
2% operating profit from China in 1998
33% operating profit from China in 2009
$9.4bn annual sales
1958 First branch of Pizza Hut opens in Kansas
1952 Colonel Harland D Sanders opens first KFC in Utah
11 herbs and spices in KFC's "finger-lickin' flavour"
1962 Glen Bell opens first branch of Taco Bell in California
1 number of Taco Bell stores in the UK
300 million pounds of cheese used by Pizza Hut each year
87,500 Size in square feet of the KFC "face from space" advertisement built in the Nevada desert and showing Colonel Sanders
SONIC Introduces New Footlong Quarter Pound Coney
New and Improved Coney Introductory Price of $2.99
OKLAHOMA CITY, June 28 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Just in time to celebrate National Hot Dog Month, SONIC®, America's Drive-In®, introduces its new and improved Footlong Quarter Pound Coney, a juicy, plump footlong hot dog topped with warm chili and melty cheese.
"SONIC's Coney has been a customer favorite for years," said Dominic Losacco, vice president of marketing for SONIC. "As part of SONIC's ongoing initiative to improve the quality of our products, we've made some significant changes to our signature SONIC entree to make it even tastier."
The new and improved Footlong Quarter Pound Coney is a blend of beef and pork and boasts a bigger size than ever before, weighing in at a quarter pound. The classic coney toppings of chili and cheese round out this entree that is reminiscent of summer picnics, baseball games and family gatherings.
From June 28 to August 29, the new Footlong Quarter Pound Coney is priced for a limited time at $2.99. It's the perfect summer food for anyone looking for a satisfying meal, especially if it's paired with any one of SONIC's side items such as handmade onion rings, famous tots, fresh mozzarella sticks or super hot Ched 'R' Peppers. Also available this summer, the new Campfire Blast, Real Ice Cream blended with toasted graham crackers and chocolate covered with marshmallows. It's the perfect frozen treat for summer.
SONIC, America's Drive-In (Nasdaq: SONC) started as a hamburger and root beer stand in 1953 in Shawnee, Okla., called Top Hat Drive-In, and then changed its name to SONIC in 1959. The first drive-in to adopt the SONIC name is still serving customers in Stillwater, Okla. As the nation's largest chain of drive-in restaurants, SONIC has more than 3,500 drive-ins coast to coast and serves approximately 3 million customers every day. With more drink combinations than any other quick-service restaurant more than 168,000 SONIC is Your Ultimate Drink Stop®. For more information about Sonic Corp. and its subsidiaries, visit SONIC at www.sonicdrivein.com. Through Limeades for Learning(SM), SONIC and its franchisees have donated more than $638,000 dollars to public school classrooms in local communities across the country. Visit www.limeadesforlearning.com to learn more about SONIC's commitment to education.
Carl's Jr. Testing a "Footlong Cheeseburger"
July 10th, 2010
Carl's Jr. simply couldn't sit still too long while KFC hopped into the sandwich game with their Double Down from days ago. It looks like they're trying to make some waves with this new "Footlong Cheeseburger" they're testing out at one of my local Santa Ana, CA, locations. The sandwich comes along with some chuckles, to say the least. It sells for $4 (the plain cheeseburger), and the deluxe is set at $4.50 (comes with all the fixings, lettuce, tomatoes, onions). The combo meals are set at $6.50 for the cheeseburger version and $7.00 for the deluxe footlong.
The 12-inch burger is wrapped like a sandwich, and sticks out of most of the to-go bags offered up at the location, so it was definitely an interesting sight. I'm not sure how well the burger will fair, it's basically just a few patties and ingredients mimicking a sub sandwich, which may end up not helping its overall appeal. The dough on the bread seems a little off, but the execution of the entire sandwich still remains interesting and I'm intrigued to say the least. As for the patty, it actually consists of smaller individual patties, instead of one larger piece (which may have earned it some more "craziness points"). Maybe they will make some modifications if they decide to roll this burger out nationally. Until then, what do you guys think of the pictures, or if you've tried it yourself, please share your thoughts with us!
The Candwich: A Sandwich in a Can
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Like a cross between a Little Debbie and a cold Hot Pocket, but also in a can, the Candwich is the next batshit crazy convenience food hitting shelves. Although it's targeting the pre-school, camping, and construction worker demographic, it seems more like a novelty or a military ration than something anyone would actually eat on a regular basis. The Candwich recently got national attention after a Utah man was sued by the SEC for fraudulently investing millions of dollars in Mark One Foods, the company the produces the Candwich, in addition to several other equally ridiculous products.
The Candwich comes in three flavors: peanut butter and strawberry jam, peanut butter and grape jam, and, the most terrifying of all, BBQ Chicken. Apparently the law suit has had little impact on Mark One Foods, and plans for Pepperoni Pizza and French Toast Candwiches are in the works.
The Mark One Foods website makes a claim that the Candwich would be good for camping, and, indeed, a German camping supply company at one point produced cheeseburgers in a can. An AV Club taste test described them as something you would "never want to relive, but that won't stop me from telling every single person I know about it." Although peanut butter and jelly seems like it might fare better from the in-a-can treatment than either the cheeseburger or the BBQ Chicken, it's still likely that the Candwich is more an internet-meme-in-a-can than viable food source.
And, unfortunately, there is more: the yellow circle on the left side of the can says "Candy Surprise Inside." Not clear whether the candy is in the sandwich itself or a bonus side item, but either way there should be no surprises in a sandwich in a can.
Novelty Sandwiches UK
The Lasagna Sandwich from Tesco: The LAS-andwich
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
More from the frontiers of sandwich innovation the foot-long hamburger is so totally yesterday's news, the the Candwich last week's! this time from the British grocery store chain Tesco with their newest creation: the LAS-andwich. That's right, for a mere £2.50 (about $3.80), you can acquire your very own personal-sized lasagna that is also a sandwich. Inspired by leftover lasagna (seriously), the LAS-andwich consists of beef in a tomato herb sauce, cooked sheets of pasta, and "a creamy cheddar, ricotta and mayonnaise dressing." That's right: bread and pasta. Not since the Domino's Bread Bowl Pastas have consumers seen so many carbohydrates in one snack.
A traditional British stoner snack?
Although we've never heard of lasagna sandwiches, LAS-andwich creator Laura Fagan says, "Lasagne sandwiches were a favorite of mine back in student days and were really popular with all my mates at university." So maybe they're popular in the UK, which would make them a little bit less innovative, but still pretty crazy nonetheless.
Tesco is not new to the novelty sandwich game: they produced a Singing Sandwich for the World cup which sang soccer chants when the packaging was opened, and a banana and chocolate sandwich for Christmas two years ago.
Novelty Sandwich Ranking: On a scale of one to ten, one being a plain slice of white bread and ten being a chocolate-dipped bacon-wrapped Double Down on a stick, the LAS-Sandwich is a 6.
Raw Cacao: Turn Chocolate Cravings into Super Nutrition
Thursday, July 08, 2010
Heidi Fagley, citizen journalist
(NaturalNews) One of the most craved, savored, and sought after foods worldwide can also benefit the body in extraordinary ways. Cacao, cocoa, chocolate - no matter how you say it, humans around the globe seek the mouth-watering pleasure and mood-boosting effects of this extraordinary antioxidant.
Cocoa beans are the seed of the fruit tree, Theobroma cacao that grows in the shades of the rainforest between 15-20 degrees North and South of the Equator. All chocolate is made from cacao (pronounced cuh-COW), the edible part of the cocoa bean after it has been harvested, dried, fermented, and hulled. These beans have some of the most valuable nutrients available to us.
Nicknamed "black gold" by the Spanish, the bean-shaped pod is a food that has also been considered a highly beneficial medicine because it contains over 300 identifiable chemical compounds. Unfortunately, many of those properties are destroyed by cooking, processing, and refining. Studies have shown that dairy products actually block the absorption of antioxidants in chocolate. Yet most commercially produced candy and chocolate bars contain low levels of cacao bean compared to other ingredients such as sugars, milk fat, hydrogenated oils, and artificial flavorings.
In comparison by weight, cacao has more antioxidant flavonoids than blueberries, red wine, or black and green teas. In fact, it has up to four times the quantity of antioxidants found in green tea. The Aztecs called the cacao "yollotl eztli," which literally means "heart blood;" they understood the benefit this truly powerful superfood has on the cardiovascular system.
Pure, raw cacao also has extraordinary potential for helping to support weight loss - quite the opposite from the everyday chocolate bar!
That certain "euphoria" you may feel after consuming your favorite raw cacao treat isn't in your minds! Chocolate has actual compounds with the unique ability to satiate our appetite for pleasure like no other substance.
By increasing the levels of specific neurotransmitters in our brains, cacao can help promote a positive outlook, facilitate rejuvenation, and simply lift our spirits:
- Serotonin - Cacao raises the level of serotonin in the brain and therefore acts as an anti-depressant, promoting an overall sense of well-being.
-Endorphins - These are our natural pain and stress chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Cacao stimulates the secretion of endorphins, which can help to produce a pleasurable feeling.
- Phenylethylamine (PEAs) - PEAs are a natural chemical compound that are also created within the brain and released when we are in love. It acts as a mild mood elevator and an anti-depressant, and it helps increase focus and alertness.
- Anandamide - Anandamide is known as the "bliss chemical" because it is released by the brain when we are feeling happy. Cacao contains both N-acylethanolamines that are believed to temporarily increase the levels of anandamide in the brain and enzyme inhibitors that slow its breakdown. This promotes relaxation for a longer period of time.
As with anything, you can overdo it! The key is to eat minimally processed raw cacao in small amounts - just enough to receive the health-boosting qualities and satisfy those chocolate cravings.
Delicious Cacao Smoothie
2 Frozen Bananas (remove skin, cut into medium size pieces and freeze)
2 Tablespoons Organic Cacao Powder
1 1/2 Cups Almond Milk - more or less, depending on desired thickness
Your choice of sweetener, if desired
A few Goji Berries and/or a Tablespoon of Maca Powder can also be a healthy, delicious combination
Blend all ingredients on high until smooth and creamy. Enjoy!
Portland, Oregon: Yes, We Went to Voodoo Doughnut
July 14, 2010
22 Southwest 3rd Avenue, Portland, OR 97204 (map); 503-241-4704; more locations listed at voodoodoughnut.com
Triple Chocolate Penetration. Maple Blazer Blunt. Tangfastic. Miami Vice Berry.
These are just a few of the quirky doughnut creations you'll find at Voodoo Doughnuts, Portland's famed independent doughnut mini-chain (they opened their third location in Eugene just this past May). It was one of the most frequent recommendations I received when I told people I was going to Portland. I didn't think it could live up to the hype, but I knew I couldn't not try a doughnut covered in Cocoa Puffs or sprinkled with Tang.
So on a Saturday afternoon (more specifically, a holiday weekendJuly 3), I visited the original seven-year-old, hole-in-the-wall-like location in Old Town and waited about 40 minutes to get my doughnut on. To get the most out of those 40 sweaty minutes, I ordered seven doughnuts, knowing very well there was no way my four friends and I could eat all of them without feeling ill.
They mostly tasted how they looked
Overall, the doughnuts weren't life changing, but they were fun and inoffensive. They mostly tasted how they looked: fried dough + sweet frosting + bacon/cookie chunks/crunchy cereal chunks in various iterations.
The Maple Bacon Bar had an especially good flavor combination. The best overall doughnut was easily the Memphis Mafia fritter, a hulking mound (at least twice the size of the other doughnuts) of golden, crispy fried dough topped with banana chunks and cinnamon sugar, covered in a glaze, drizzled in chocolate frosting and peanut butter, and sprinkled with crushed peanuts and chocolate chips.
Overkill? Hell yes. But the flavors go together well (figuring your taste buds can tolerate high concentrations of sugar), and the dough had a great crispy crust and fairly soft and light interior.
Voodoo Doughnuts is also vegan friendlytheir vegan doughnut selection includes 10 cake doughnuts and 11 raised doughnuts.
Cherry juice, the sweet solution for insomniacs?
14th July 2010
Cherry juice could hold the key to a good night's sleep, say scientists.
Volunteers who drank a glass of unsweetened cherry juice in the morning and evening enjoyed more shut-eye than when they drank the same amount of other juices, a study found.
Curing insomnia has become one of the biggest health challenges of the modern age.
The secret of sleep: Cherry juice helped people sleep longer in the research
About one in four adults suffer from it and a fifth regularly get fewer than five hours' sleep a night.
Psychiatrist Dr Wilfred Pigeon, of the University of Rochester in New York, who led the study, said the cherry juice effect could be due to the fruit's high content of melatonin, the hormone that regulates the body's sleep-wake cycle.
His researchers analysed sleeping patterns of participants on two routines.
During the first they drank cherry juice, and the second a comparable fruit juice. The cherry juice led to an average of 17 minutes more sleep.
Dr Pigeon, whose findings are published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, said: 'Given the side-effects of some medications, it is encouraging to have a natural alternative.'
Melatonin expert Dr Russel Reiter, of the University of Texas, said foods such as cherries may be a better alternative to boost the body's supply than supplements.