A co-branded teri chicken takes wing in Hawaii
Of the tortoise and the hare, Aesop said "slow and steady wins the race."
"Slow and steady also can refer to sales gains, as has been the case with KFC Hawaii's teriyaki chicken sandwiches.
They are co-branded with May's Hawaii, a unit of Kapolei-based Palama Meat Co.
It is "our No. 2 best-selling sandwich," said Steve Johnson, general manager of Kazi Foods Corp. of Hawaii, Hawaii's KFC franchisee.
Added around late February, the sandwich hit its sales ranking without advertising, which didn't start until mid-June.
It is no small undertaking for a franchisee of an international chain, such as KFC, to add a local product to its locally offered mix.
It had partnered with Noh Foods of Hawaii on char siu rotisserie chicken for a limited time, some 17 years ago when KFC had rotisserie ovens, Johnson said.
KFC franchiser Yum! Brands is based in Kentucky, but Hawaii's stores are part of its Asia-Pacific region headquartered in Singapore.
"They know Hawaii is a market that is unique and you've got to have a local flavor," Johnson said. Still, it had to win layers of corporate approvals.
"May's has been a part of Hawaii for many, many years," so the companies teamed up to craft a flavor profile even a corporate entity could love.
It's not that KFC corporate doesn't like teriyaki.
"We tried a teriyaki wing a couple years ago ... but it didn't have the taste or the recipe that May's has, or, the local flavor profile," Johnson said.
"What I'm excited about is, since the May's recipe is approved, we are working with a marinade or glaze that can turn our wings into a May's teriyaki wing."
"There may be further co-branded items.
Johnson worked with Ryan Day, executive chef for product development and national sales manager at Palama Meat.
Day joined the company about three-and-a-half years ago, after serving as executive chef at the old Sunset Grill and the Ala Moana Hotel.
Day's job included working to get the flavors right and working with KFC's quality assurance execs on a preparation guide for store managers, "so they can train all the employees," he said.
Having been around for 40 years, "we sell to everybody," he said, from the state Department of Education's food service program to restaurants and retail stores, where May's is a familiar local brand.
However, getting the May's Hawaii name out there in co-branding efforts with restaurants is relatively new.
It provided the Portuguese sausage for Papa John's Pizza and its name was on the menu when Taco Bell offered May's kalua pork in some items, such as a kalua pork quesadilla.
"The kalua pork did really well ... so they're going to do it again," Day said.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com