It's a fry-for-all: Wendy's natural-cut, sea salt fries go national

Nov. 9, 2010 | by Alicia Kelso

Wendy's is now serving its natural-cut french fries nationwide. After testing the new menu item in Florida, Louisiana and North Carolina, the chain is ready for a broader rollout featuring its biggest change in the fries' 41-year history.

The new fries feature a natural "skin-on" cut, which presents a crispier texture than Wendy's classic fries. They are also seasoned with sea salt, which is produced through the evaporation of seawater with little processing required.

"Consumers say sea salt is more natural and authentic. That said, we understand that sodium is sodium, whether it’s natural or processed," said Denny Lynch, Wendy's spokesperson, during the testing phase.

Wendy's is the only quick-service chain offering french fries with a natural cut and sea salt seasoning. They are made from Russet potatoes and cooked in a proprietary oil that contains no allergens or transfat.

The product launch complements Wendy's tagline "You Know When it's Real," launched in October 2009.

"A year ago, Wendy's launched its 'Real' brand position that is the foundation of our company -- real products with authentic, high integrity ingredients, fresh preparation and exciting tastes and flavors for every main food item we serve. We challenged ourselves to translate this brand promise into even better french fries. The result is hotter, crispier and tastier natural-cut fries, seasoned with sea salt. We think our sea salt fries will set a new standard in the QSR industry," said Ken Calwell, Wendy's chief marketing officer.

Also buoying the chain's new branding, Wendy's has recently launched its new premium Garden Sensations salad line with an emphasis on fresh ingredients, and has begun switching out its bacon supply for Applewood-smoked, center-cut bacon in its premium sandwich line.

Feedback for the new fries from the three test cities was positive across the board. Consumers gave high ratings for quality, taste and overall value, and sales exceeded expectations and continued to be high after the test marketing advertising campaign was over.

"Testing exceeded goals, leading to an earlier rollout," Lynch said, adding, "Our real brand position is all about real foods -- with authentic ingredients that are easy to understand.  We've completely re-energized our salads with the new Garden Sensations in July; now fries; next -- hamburgers and chicken. (These are) exciting times."

The timing of this launch may prove favorable to Wendy's, which finished fourth in the french fry category in this year's Zagat Fast Food Survey.

Stuart Morris, who owns and operates QSR Consulting Group Inc., believes these menu innovations will help Wendy’s positioning as a brand leader in the segment.

“Wendy’s is betting on a 'healthier' menu line-up that will be both competitively compelling and highly profitable,” he said. “Wendy’s will need to be relentless in its pursuit to elevate all menu categories to embrace high quality and fresh ingredients. The company is moving in the right direction.”

The natural-cut french fries are priced the same as the classic french fries, and are offered in four serving sizes - large, medium, small and Value. They will begin to make their way into units Nov. 11, with all Wendy's stores selling them by Nov. 19.

The launch is being accompanied by a Facebook marketing campaign, called "Fry for All," as well as a holiday gift card promotion that offers free fries with the purchase of a $15 Wendy's gift card.

Topics: Food & Beverage , Health & Nutrition , Marketing / Branding / Promotion

Alicia Kelso / Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with, and has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, and Franchise Asia magazine.
View Alicia Kelso's profile on LinkedIn

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