KFC works to restore image in China

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 December, 2013, 5:09am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 December, 2013, 5:09am

Yum Brands' KFC website on the mainland trumpets the slogan "Trust in every bite".

That message is part of the company's new "I Commit" campaign intended to reassure customers in its largest market, who have cut back on visits since mainland media reports a year ago about excessive antibiotic use by a few KFC suppliers.

There is a lot at stake for Yum. It is the mainland's largest Western restaurant operator with roughly 4,500 KFC outlets, and the company reaps more than half of its overall operating profit there.

Despite a decades-long reputation for serving safe food on the mainland, KFC has struggled to fully restore diners' trust in a market where dangerous contamination scandals are commonplace.

Interviews with mainland consumers suggest that rather than soothing their concerns, KFC's new advertisements are reminding diners about the food safety scare at the fried-chicken chain, which could undermine Yum's mission to revive sales there.

Yum chief executive David Novak said he is confident "I Commit" was on target - noting that "hundreds and hundreds of consumers" in testing said they felt better about the KFC brand after the chain directly addressed safety worries.

"We don't want to be doing it forever, but we want to communicate it and get it out there because it's a lingering issue," Novak said in New York on Wednesday following Yum's annual investor meeting.

A survey on the mainland last month found nearly 40 per cent of respondents were still very concerned about antibiotic use in KFC chickens. Yum, which cut off some of its suppliers after the television report on antibiotics, initially predicted safety fears would quickly fade.