Why everyone is talking about KFC's new chicken sandwich

Remember last year's chicken sandwich craze? If not, let's bring you up to speed: Popeyes kicked off a chicken sandwich sensation in 2019, unveiling a product that sold like crazy, spawned a slew of copycat recipes, and inspired downright bizarre customer behavior. It was deemed "the fast-food menu item of the year" by Business Insider, unofficially the winner in the hotly contested "Chicken Sandwich Wars" that attracted the attention of fellow fast-food giants like Chick-fil-A and McDonald's.

But, until now, fans of KFC haven't heard a peep (or a cluck) from the chicken chain in terms of a solid entry in the sandwich department. Its menu features the Crispy Colonel Sandwich and Chicken Littles — and, despite a 2020 nationwide launch of its 2019-tested Chicken & Donuts Sandwich, it turns out that even execs knew KFC was lacking in that area.

In a press release, Andrea Zahumensky, chief marketing officer for KFC U.S., explained (via Food & Wine), "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. We knew an upgrade was necessary."

Inside the new KFC Chicken Sandwich

Zahumensky boasted that the company "painstakingly selected each ingredient to create a bigger, better, and more premium sandwich than ever," though some of the ingredients will ring a bell with Popeyes fans. According to USA Today, the chicken filet is 20 percent larger and double-breaded, packed in a brioche bun with thick-cut pickles. The chicken, of course, features KFC's "signature 11 herbs and spices," and the sandwich can be topped with mayo in classic or spicy varieties (via Forbes).

WTVM reports that the sandwich ($3.99 by itself, or $6.99 in a combo meal) will now be available as a test item at 15 Orlando, Florida-area locations, with a possible nationwide rollout at all of its 4,000 or so U.S. locations if it proves a hit. But fans will have to act fast; the sandwich will grace the menu only until June 21 (via CNN).

The chicken chain is also using the new menu item as a feel-good bonus for Orlando-area frontline workers, with USA Today noting that KFC will deliver the KFC Chicken Sandwich to everyday heroes, such as police officers and teachers.

Time will tell whether the new premium sandwich will inspire the kind of frenzy that Popeyes created last year, but KFC's latest entry ensures that the Chicken Sandwich Wars are far from settled.