LOUISVILLE, KY — KFC is claiming its spot in the chicken sandwich wars with a new KFC Chicken Sandwich being tested in Orlando, Fla.

While KFC currently has a chicken sandwich on its menu, the restaurant chain decided to reformulate the offering to contend with the “steep competition” from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Chick-fil-A, the Yum! Brands, Inc. subsidiary said.

“We wanted a chicken sandwich that really lives up to our legacy as the fried chicken experts, and let’s face it, ours wasn't the one to beat,” said Andrea Zahumensky, chief marketing officer for KFC US. “We knew an upgrade was necessary, so we painstakingly selected each ingredient to create a bigger, better and more premium sandwich than ever.”

The new KFC Chicken Sandwich, which took a year to develop, features an “upgrade of every single component,” Ms. Zahumensky said. The brand worked with six different bakeries to try at least 10 variations of buns and went through 10 different pickles, eventually deciding on one that is 10 times more expensive than KFC’s other pickles. The final product includes a crispier chicken filet that is 20% larger, three thicker and crunchier pickles and a buttered brioche bun. The sandwich may be ordered with either plain mayo or spicy mayo.

“I think we’ve unlocked a chicken sandwich that won’t just compete — it’ll win with fried chicken lovers everywhere,” Ms. Zahumensky said.

The KFC Chicken Sandwich is being tested at 15 Orlando-area locations until June 21 for $3.99, the same price as Popeyes’ chicken sandwich, which boasts similar ingredients: a large crispy chicken filet, three pickles, a brioche bun and a choice of classic or spicy mayo.

Popeyes’ chicken sandwich debuted in August 2019 and sparked the so-called chicken sandwich wars among fast food chains, including Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s.

“That there are comparisons being made between KFC’s new menu item and Popeyes’ chicken sandwich simply reflects the industry’s overall shift toward more familiar and simple offerings,” said Carmen Bryan, consumer analyst at data and analytics company GlobalData. “Fast-food chains in general are known for their experimental — and often quite gimmicky — foods, however, as consumer confidence is taking a big hit, it may be time to go back to what consumers know. While the staying power of mega chains such as KFC are immense, even these chains must adapt their menus to meet the growing taste for nostalgia and familiarity if they wish to make up for 2020 losses.

“What’s more, with the capital backing to withstand the COVID-19 lows, major brands are able to leverage the buzz generated by constant new releases, gimmicky marketing ploys and public rivalries to maintain public relevance. This will be essential when closing the gap in revenues prompted by the pandemic.”