Pickle Shortage Delays Rollout of Burger King's Chicken Sandwich

The problem isn't even the pickles themselves—it's the jars.

It's hard to believe that it has been a year and a half since Popeyes released THAT chicken sandwich, the one that caused stores to sell-out nationwide, customers to literally line up for hours (and occasionally fight each other) and left almost every other fast food scrambling to develop their own versions.

Last month, Burger King reported that it had been working on its own hand-breaded sandwich since 2019 and had been "not-so-secretly" testing it since last September. "What if hand-breading were to chicken what flame-grilling is to burgers? That's been our guiding filter to bring a delicious chicken sandwich to guests in a way only BK can," Ellie Doty, the chief marketing officer for Burger King North America, said in a statement. "We'll take the time to get it right and our guests will definitely taste the difference."

slices of cucumber pickles
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The company said that it would be introducing the sandwich later this year, but it might be even later in parts of western Michigan, not because of the chicken or the potato bun, but because of... a pickle shortage.

"We have pickles for Whoppers but these are very special bigger, crunchier, zesty pickles," said Jim MacDonald, the vice president of operations for Burger King Grand Rapids, told WOOD TV8. "The problem was we couldn't get the pickles because they couldn't get the jars during the pandemic. They couldn't make the jars to put the pickles in to get them to us so they couldn't make enough to get them where we needed them."

According to Supply Chain Management Review, Burger King's pickle problem is what happens when there are Tier 2 supply shortages, which affect manufacturers that produce stuff for Tier 1 suppliers, who provide their products to supermarkets and other retailers.

When it comes to Claussen brand pickles, for example, they've had issues getting glass jars from their suppliers, due to a combination of increased grocery demand, decreased manufacturing schedules, and a 30 percent decline in glass recycling due to cutbacks of some city services. (And there was also an increase in the number of people who took up home canning and preserving as their early pandemic activities.)

"During some weeks in late May and in June, Claussen pickles experienced a decrease in availability, often nearing 88 [percent]," Supply Chain Management Review wrote. "During other weeks, pre-pandemic-levels of pickles were available. The availability of Claussen pickles has been inconsistent due to the unpredictability of their glass jar supply. Unfortunately, if the COVID-19 pandemic persists, there may be unforeseen tier-based shortages up and down grocery supply chains."

And that seems to have affected Burger King's chicken sandwich rollout too. MacDonald told WOOD TV8 that the new item's popularity in its test markets have shown that Michigan restaurants will need a lot more pickles in order to meet anticipated demand. He also hinted that the King's chicken sammich will be even better than Popeyes—although both chains are owned by Restaurant Brands International. "[Burger King] has some information on how Popeyes makes their sandwiches," he told MLive. "In my opinion, it's better than Popeyes and Chick-fil-a. That's of course when you do it right."

You can decide that for yourself, Michiganders—but you might have to wait until early May to take that first bite.

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