There’s a new epidemic in town, and it's like no other of its kind. Comprised of a “secret sauce,” and two pieces of cheese and bacon sandwiched between a pair of fried chicken fillets, the KFC Double Down is a sandwich without a bun.
Since its debut six months ago in the U.S., the KFC Double Down has generated much hype. Newly released as a promotional fast-food item in Canada (on Oct. 18), the Double Down phenomenon has continued to generated discussion.
“It’s not something that we have discussed, but it’s certainly something we may look at and review,” said Health Promotion Minister, Margarett Best, to reporters. Best later double backed on her response in a statement issued by her office. “I wish to reiterate that there are no plans to review the availability of any food products in Ontario," the Toronro Star reports "Consumers have the right to choose the food they wish to purchase.”
University of British Columbia’s food nutrition professor, Susan Barr, believes that the Double Down is a health risk. “The [amount of] sodium is extraordinarily high,” she told the Globe and Mail. “There’s almost no room to eat other food.”
At 1740mg per serving, the Double Down contains 116 percent of the recommended daily intake of sodium. Overconsumption of sodium in the long run may contribute to high blood pressure which can result in strokes and other cardiovascular diseases.
KFC Canada recognizes that high sodium intake may be unappealing to its customers, but continues to include a large amount of compound in their products. On their website, there is an icon that leads to their acknowledgment of the negative perception associated with large amounts of sodium in food. It reads as follows: “Watching your sodium? We are too. In fact, in the past year, we’ve reduced the sodium in our Original Recipe chicken by more than 20 per cent, while still maintaining our delicious KFC trademark taste of 11 herbs and spices.”
Despite KFC’s statement, the Canadian version of the Double Down contains almost 400mg more sodium than its American counterpart. KFC U.S. offers a Double Down that contains only 1380mg of sodium, and a “healthier” alternative which has 1430mg of sodium but uses grilled chicken fillets instead.
Vice-President of KFC Yum! Restaurants’ (which operates KFC) public relations company, Debra Quinn, revealed that a difference in taste is the reason why the U.S. and Canadian Double Down are so distinct. “The Double Down created for Canada is uniquely created for Canadians. It features pepper jack cheese. This is Canadian so KFC creates what they feel suits Canadian taste buds,” she said. “We’ve been transparent about [the Double Down] nutritional values. It is not something that should be eaten every day.”
Despite the high amount of sodium, the KFC Double Down is only mediocre on the scale of unhealthy foods when compared to other fast-food favourites. “The chicken fillets (buns) are supposed to be quite healthy,” said KFC employee Yancy Trujillo. “It is the most filling item on our menu.”
At 540 per serving, the Double Down contains just as many calories as a McDonald’s BigMac but has fewer grams of fat. The Wendy’s Baconator is noted to have 610 calories, 35g of fat and 1,130 mg of sodium, while Burger King’s Triple Whopper contains close to 1,250 calories, 84 g of fat and 1,600 mg of sodium.
What separates the Double Down from other fast-food items is its hype. In Kitchener and Waterloo, Ontario alone, most KFC franchises either sold out of the Double down on the first day, or sold over one hundred of them. “Canadians have been calling and begging KFC to bring [the Double Down] to Canada for months,” said Quinn. While KFC has a Facebook fan site of their own that challenges people to “Take Down the Double Down” many Facebook groups have been created by fans to honour the sandwich. Though it is only has 80 group members, there is even a Facebook group titled “Bring the KFC Double Down to Canada.”
Before its debut in Canada, news reports of KFC’s advertisement technique for the product fueled the Double Down excitement. “It’s hard to imagine anyone escaped the buzz of the Double Down,” said John Cywinski, chief marketing and food innovation officer for KFC (as reported by theRecord). “But in an effort to reach consumers coast-to-coast, and especially our key target of young men, we’ve established yet another advertising first — one that’s fitting of the Double Down’s head-turning history.”
While KFC advertises the Double Down differently in Canada, they pay students in the U.S. to advertise for them. As reported by the Consumerist, KFC is currently dishing out $500 per day to young women at Colorado State University, Indiana University, and James Madison University to wear tight sweat pants with the name Double Down written across the seat. These women then hand out $5 coupons to passersby.
The Double Down hype has even sparked some fandom of its own. Soon after the release of the Double Down concept, fans were quick to create their versions dramatic sandwiches. One creation that has gone viral is the McGangbang — a sandwich within a sandwich created for people who cannot afford a BigMac. It is constructed completely from McDonald’s dollar menu: two cheeseburgers and a junior chicken.
Members of the University of Waterloo newspaper, Imprint , has also created a Double Down fandom sandwich of their own. The Imprint Double Down McThreeWay came to life on October 20. Mimicking the McGangbang, the sandwich incorporated Two McDonald’s cheeseburger, one junior chicken, and a Double Down.
KFC executives have yet to comment on the fandom created by the hype. The Double Down is currently only a promotion in Canada. Like most of KFC’s promotion items, it will only be available for six weeks. The Double Down is scheduled to be on sale until the November 14. Depending on its popularity after, KFC may or may not decide to turn it into a permanent menu item.