Locally produced chicken neck has been in a pickle for the past two months, a development for which poultry market leader the Jamaica Broilers Group is taking full responsibility.
When The Sunday Gleaner visited the company’s processing plant in Spring Village, St Catherine, last Tuesday, Michael Jones, sales and marketing director in the Best Dressed Chicken Sales and Marketing Division, was insistent that the situation would continue for some time.
“We are supplying to wholesalers and were not planning to put it into supermarkets just yet, but the demand has just taken off and the supermarkets are repackaging it in tray packs and they seem to be leading the charge.
“Their demand is way above any of the other segments, which we didn’t expect. We thought the market would be mainly wholesalers and caterers - food service. We were wrong. Retail is running with it at a pace we didn’t anticipate,” said Jones as he provided an update on the response to Best Dressed Chicken’s ‘Kiss Mi Neck’ brand of pickled chicken neck packaged in 5-gallon plastic kegs.
Jones added: “It’s healthy, attractive, quick and convenient to use and it’s tasty. So we anticipate it’s going to take off in a short time. It’s half the price of pig’s tail and when you prepare it, if you do it right, the difference is negligible. You can’t taste the difference. It doesn’t have the amount of fat so it’s healthy, and for those who don’t eat pork it’s a fantastic alternative. If you soak it overnight and just do a light scald you’re ready to rumble and so Kiss Mi Neck.
“While we were coming up with the project one of my favourite sayings was ‘kiss mi neck’, so my staff liked the term and it stuck and the product was named Kiss Mi Neck.”
The overwhelming response from consumers, who initially reacted with disbelief, has been a revelation to, as well as vindication for, the Best Dressed Chicken team, and in particular chairman and chief executive officer, Christopher Levy.
The sales and marketing director explained: “At one of the shows recently the Kiss Mi Neck Soup was one of the front-line products we were introducing, and people were tasting it and could not believe pickled chicken could taste like that but the secret is really the pickle flavour. You pickle pork, beef or chicken and you get a particular flavour which is what we like in the soups or stew peas, and that’s what it’s delivering, that pickled flavour.
“We had people try it and we had comments like, ‘No sah, pig’s tail inna dis, me haffi talk to the chef’. So it’s been around two months and the response has been fantastic.”
Jones added that this is quite a contrast to what happened more than 20 years ago when Christopher Levy was working in the family business while attending college.
According to Jones, even then there was an excess inventory of chicken necks and young Levy was given the task of coming up with a project to find an economically viable way of utilising the product.
“He came up with pickled chicken. Sadly, the market was not ready for it. People turned it down. We took it into the wholesales and some of the restaurants and they were, ‘no way, as long as I have pig’s tail that will never sell’. It was a big flop.”
With excess chicken neck still an issue this time around, Best Dressed Chicken was cautious in its re-entry to the market.
“We ran the experiments and gave away kegs so that people would get to know it and use it. Now we’re starting to see the reordering coming but it’s a vindication of his (Levy’s) efforts 20-odd years ago when it crashed and burned.
“Then people didn’t even want the samples. Can you imagine that? They were not interested in it, they literally refused it. I mean even when we were trying to give it away,” said Jones.
He noted that the demand for the pickled chicken neck is rising faster than the company anticipated, but said it will be able to respond.