How do you attract fussy vegetarians with a name that screams ‘chicken’? Yum Brands, the Louisville, Kentucky-based company which runs one of the world’s most iconic quick-service restaurants, KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), must be saying, “What’s in a name?” KFC has been quietly increasing its vegetarian options over a year, and the industry says that it now plans to have a separate vegetarian menu. Though KFC is yet to go public on this, speaking exclusively to Fortune India, Dhruv Kaul, director-marketing, KFC, says: “I don’t see it as a problem per se, because KFC’s been built in the Indian consumer’s mind as a happening, aspirational brand that offers food and beverages they crave for.” About 30% of Indians is vegetarian, with prosperous states such as Gujarat and Punjab aggressive on greens.

Ad agency Ogilvy, which is tackling the dilemma for KFC, says the connection with ‘fried chicken’ needs to be muted. About five campaign ideas were piloted a year ago, say people associated with the campaign, when KFC decided to widen its consumer base to vegetarians. New advertisements are likely to be launched in a couple of months.

According to an ad professional who did not want to be named, two thematic campaigns are being planned to make the brand relevant to vegetarians. There could also be separate colour-coded menus, and dedicated dining areas for vegetarians.
But what about consumers who fuss about the cooking utensils or oil? Kaul says their kitchens have been accessible to outsiders from the time KFC started business here and, therefore, transparent to vegetarians. “We have separate utensils for vegetarian and non-vegetarian cooking.”

Brand consultant Harish Bijoor, however, thinks KFC will find it impossible to address strict vegetarians unless it builds all-vegetarian restaurants. “At most, KFC can become a vegetarian option for non-vegetarian consumers.” He adds that vegetarian consumers are increasingly gravitating towards fully vegetarian restaurants, even in the most modern parts of urban India. Tarun Jain, vice president, food services, at consultancy Technopak Advisors, disagrees: “Though KFC is perceived as a chicken-centred brand, vegetarians, especially in groups of family and friends, won’t be fussy about it.” He, however, stresses that KFC will have to work harder if it has to be the first choice of a vegetarian. The company isn’t chickening out.

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