“It tastes like chicken” is a phrase often used to describe a mild and ubiquitous flavor profile, something that anyone across cultures and continents will recognize. Other fowl, amphibians, reptiles, and a range of exotic, lean meats are often described this way to people who have never tasted them before.

Across the globe, chicken is a popular choice, not only because it’s a prevalent source of lean protein but also because it can be seasoned and served in so many different ways. While American consumers are currently clamoring for variety in chicken sandwich flavor profiles and ingredients, the global community has different demands. 

Here’s what international brands should think about when it comes to pleasing chicken sandwich aficionados worldwide.


 Spicy Goes Sweet

Sweet and spicy flavor combos are nothing new, but the swicy trend has taken center stage when it comes to the chicken sandwich marketplace. The pandemic saw U.S. consumers diving into hotter spice blends from Asia, Africa, and South America, but many global cultures are already accustomed to higher heat.

While Americans continue to wax ecstatic about hot honey, other countries are seeing a surge in pairings that include high-Scoville ingredients like ghost and scorpion peppers with sweet counterparts like fruit, chocolate, and sugar. 

Blends like harissa and gochujang are just starting to gain recognition stateside but remain popular on the global scene, with Szechuan enjoying a lot of buzz in the chicken sandwich arena, in particular.


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Crispy Chicken, Hold the Batter?

Fried chicken in Asia is a little different than in America in that various starches are used to create a lighter, crispier coating on the chicken. 

Consider Korean fried chicken and Japanese karaage, both with batters that rely on potato starch rather than wheat flour to create unbeatable crunch in a lightweight format. The light coating on Chinese fried chicken is often attributed to corn starch or rice flour.

Another option is to use convection cooking to create a crispy piece of chicken doused in only sauce, with no skin or batter at all. These ultra-light options are more popular in other parts of the world, as opposed to the heavier breading dominating American chicken sandwiches.


Going to the Dark Side

The white meat of the chicken breast is preferable in the States, but worldwide, consumers don’t shy away from the fatty, flavorful dark meat found in drumsticks and thighs. 

Fried chicken sandwiches made with dark meat are few and far between in America (chef David Wang’s NYC restaurant Fuku is famously known for them), but dark meat is incredibly popular in other parts of the world, so it’s no surprise it can be found in chicken sandwiches.


Related: Where Is the U.S. Chicken Sandwich Craze Headed in 2024?


Sustainable Meets Cost-Effective

While sustainability remains a priority for many consumers, recent upsets in the global economy have caused them to become more conscious of costs. In 2024, food manufacturers will have to find ways to balance consumer demands by offering sustainable solutions without unduly increasing costs.

What does this look like? Locally sourcing ingredients may offer opportunities to cut both shipping and middlemen, curbing costs and pollution in the process. 

Restaurants may also choose to support sustainable agriculture operations that use renewable resources, trim water waste, and adopt sustainable production practices like recycling poultry litter to fertilize organic feed crops.


Are Global Trends Coming to America?

With a growing interest in international flavors and food preparations, it’s a good bet that innovative chefs, restaurants, and food manufacturers will find ways to work global trends into their U.S. lineup as the year progresses. 

Already, swicy options and Asian fry batters are on the rise, so it wouldn’t be shocking if they find their way into the ongoing chicken sandwich wars.


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