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By: Elizabeth Friend

Poultry is one of the most-consumed proteins on the planet, at over 12 kilograms per capita in 2013, and many dining cultures have some tradition of seasoned fried, grilled or roasted chicken. As a result, chicken fast food is highly conducive to international growth, and while the three largest players are US-owned, the top twenty chains are unusually varied in their countries of origin, including representatives from China, South Africa, Australia, Venezuela and South Korea. Many of these chains are enjoying rapid growth, but Peruvian chicken has emerged as a key niche category that’s one to watch.

The traditional preparation, known as pollo a la brasa, is cooked rotisserie-style with a proprietary blend of seasonings and served with French fried Peruvian potatoes. The result is an incredibly moist preparation that is difficult to replicate at home, and lighter than the fried chicken that currently dominates the chicken fast food leader board. A number of highly popular chains are already serving the dish in Peru, and they’re growing rapidly. While none of the participating chains have yet to expand multi-nationally, the concept seems uniquely suited to broader reach. With growing interest in more general Peruvian cuisine, plenty of international investment in the broader Latin America market, and widespread demand for new chicken fast food experiences, Peruvian chicken could be a breakout trend. At the very least, these up-and-coming Peruvian chains could become key players to watch in an increasingly competitive Latin American market.

Peruvian pollerias are on the rise

The two largest Peruvian chicken chains are Norky’s Polleria and Roky’s Polleria, each of which serve pollo a la brasa alongside fries, salad, and a trio of dipping sauces. This menu has helped propel them into the top ten ranks of global chicken fast food chains in 2013 value terms, as well as the top five list of fastest-growing chicken chains, at 43% and 22%, respectively.  Norky’s even surpassed Yum! Brands’s KFC for the first time in 2013 to become the largest foodservice chain in Peru, with 18% of the local chained market.

All of this growth has come as a result of rapid outlet expansion over the past five years, with each opening around 50 outlets to double in size within their domestic market. Notably, both chains also have relatively high sales per outlet figures, recording average sales per outlet of US$2.5-2.6 million in 2013. To put this into regional context, KFC brings in just USF$1 million per outlet in Latin America, and McDonald’s brings in US$2.3 million, despite similar prices for a full meal. While so far their presence remains confined to Peru, international expansion isn’t far off. Roky’s Polleria’s parent company, Grupo Roky’s, already announced plans in late 2013 to expand to Colombia and Ecuador over the medium term, and it’s reasonable to suspect Grupo Norky’s might soon follow suit.

Why Peruvian chicken?

The potential for these chains appears to be very high, but the larger story here may be as much about the Peruvian chicken concept as it is about any particular operator. Global consumers are always seeking out new flavours and preparations of chicken, especially within a fast food context, and Peruvian chicken is at the centre of a number of trends that could make it particularly conducive to chained growth.

Rotisserie chicken and fries fulfils a sweet spot in terms of menu positioning that appeals to two very important but diametrically opposed demand groups: Those looking to make healthier, more quality-minded dining decisions, and those looking to indulge. Chicken is perceived to be a healthier protein than red meats, while rotisserie is a lighter preparation than deep-frying that doesn’t sacrifice on flavour. Likewise, French fries are a nearly universally loved side dish that add high value to the dining experience without much additional cost in terms of pricing or positioning. In other words, pollo a la brasa is just healthy enough to avoid being summarily vetoed, but indulgent enough to still be worthy of a dining-out occasion. Peruvian chicken’s seasoning blend is also bold without being so spicy as to limit its mainstream appeal, making it the kind of dish that could gain immediate traction in major cities all over the world.

A new local competitor to challenge incoming multinationals

The rise of native Peruvian chains also speaks to the evolution of Latin America’s smaller markets and their increasingly mature competitive landscapes. Even as multinational operators ramp up their investment in the region—reaching beyond Brazil and Mexico to grow their presence in markets with smaller, if longer-term opportunities—local chains like Norky’s and Roky’s are growing and becoming increasingly sophisticated. The emergence of major, locally-grown chains tends to signal the beginning of a second wave of evolution in emerging foodservice markets, in which global chains can no longer rely solely on their international cachet to win over consumers.

This is of course concerning for international operators, especially at a time when growth in smaller markets is becoming more important than ever to their global expansion strategies; however, this trend speaks to a range of opportunities, both for the driving Peruvian chains as well as other operators that can take inspiration for new menu items and concept innovation. And for now, development in Peru’s foodservice market is still nascent enough that greater interest in chained dining experiences is mutually beneficial, even if it speaks to further competitive challenges down the road. Until then, Peruvian chicken is certainly a culinary trend to keep an eye on, and Norky’s and Roky’s should be on any international player’s watchlist.

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