KFC's Double Down "Sandwich": Smart Marketing, and Not as Gross as You'd Think

Last Updated Apr 13, 2010 8:30 AM EDT

So much of the attention that's been heaped on KFC's (YUM) new Double Down "sandwich" has originated from the idea that this amazingly nasty food product is yet another illustration of a food system gone horribly awry. Well, the critics are wrong. Putting aside what this orgy of cheap meat says about America's food system, the Double Down, which debuted today, is actually not so gross. It's only weird and disgusting as a concept -- which, of course, was the whole point.

For lunch, you could do much worse than what is essentially a thick slab of fried chicken with some bacon and cheese flavorings added to the mix. Critics have decried the Double Down as a heart stopper but it actually has only 540 calories (which is not a lot for fast food) and 32 grams of fat. Compared to Burger King's Triple Whopper with 76 grams of fat, it looks like a Weight Watchers special.

After eating one for lunch, I didn't feel stuffed or ill from an onslaught of grease. The chicken is thick and meaty and tastes and looks more like real chicken than other fast food options (it's not, but that's a subject for another post). The Colonel's Sauce wasn't oozing out the sides as some pictures had indicated. All in all, if you forget about the novelty of what you're eating, it's actually pretty tasty. Although, even as someone who doesn't shy away from salty foods, I found it overkill in the salt department. The 1380 mg of sodium seems reckless in a country where 74 million Americans have hypertension.

The biggest achievement of the Double Down, though, is the way it's succeeded in getting attention. Not only did NYT restaurant critic Sam Sifton decide to slum it for lunch at a KFC, but a blog sent crouching photographers there to capture the odd event. (Unsurprisingly, Sifton panned it.) Other reviews have been more upbeat.

And the outrage continues. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a pro-vegetarian group, made the Double Down sound almost dangerous when it asked KFC to avoid marketing the sandwich to children and to keep ads for the sandwich from within 500 yards of schools. All of which has no doubt helped keep customers flowing through the doors of KFCs. The cashier at my local store said that Double Downs were pretty much all they'd served for lunch today.

As far as KFC's concerned, that's mission accomplished.

Image from KFC.com