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Brief Published: 7 Sep 2020

McDonald’s New Spicy Nuggets Dial Up the Heat

Shake Shack

For the first time in almost 40 years, McDonald’s has released a variation of its classic Chicken McNuggets in the US – a fiery option likely to appeal to spice-enthused Gen Zers.

The Spicy Chicken McNuggets are breaded in a light tempura batter spiced with cayenne and chilli pepper. The fast-food chain has also launched an accompanying Mighty Hot dipping sauce, made from crushed red peppers, chillies and garlic. The spicy nuggets are available for a limited time only.

Similarly, US burger chain Shake Shack is bringing back its previously limited edition Hot Chick’n sandwich, with new sides including Hot Chick’n Bites, Hot Spicy Fries and Hot Spicy Cheese Fries. Each item is coated with a dusting of guajillo chilli and cayenne pepper. 

As covered in our report Gen Z Influences Future Flavour, 59% of Gen Z consumers say they prefer “very spicy foods” (Technomic, 2019), so these new launches could prove popular with this youthful cohort.

Interestingly, fried chicken has fared well during the pandemic. While US fast-food sales dipped by 24% in the first six months of 2020, sales of fried chicken were up by 1.2% compared to last year, with Americans consuming more than 2.3 billion birds between January and June 2020 (Washington Post, August 2020).

For more on how restaurants are flexing to win back consumers during and post-lockdown, read The Dining Industry Pivots and The Future Restaurant. For a deep dive into flavour trends, see Top Flavour Trends 2019/20: Flavorcon.