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Can we give KFC to dogs?

KFC is putting pet toys in kids’ meals as China’s younger generations have fewer children

KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell parent Yum China has found a novel way to tailor its products to China’s changing demographics: target pet owners, in addition to parents.

“More and more young people have pets,” said Joey Wat, CEO of Yum China, in an interview with Fortune. “In the past, we had toys for adults and for kids. Now, we have toys for cats and dogs.”

Yum China offered both fluffy toys and pet beds as Kentucky Fried Chicken promotions in the fourth quarter. Both items, originally designed for pets, even became popular with human customers. “They’re doing pretty well!” Wat said.

China’s population crisis

Wat said that Yum China’s “focus on pets” reflects a shift in attitudes among younger Chinese. The country’s Gen Zers and millennials are prioritizing individual comfort and well-being over social norms that demand they get married and have children.

Courtesy of Yum China

The number of “double-income, no kids” households are growing in official data, and some of households are choosing to get pets. A 2021 paper from the China Pet Industry Association estimated that China’s pet market grew more than fourfold between 2015 and 2020, reaching $46 billion, and predicted the market will hit $70 billion this year.

Meanwhile, Beijing is trying to encourage families to have children, rolling back strict controls on household size. Yet ordinary Chinese families complain about poor work-life balance and access to childcare. The country reported its first population decline since 1961 earlier this year.

KFC’s Psyduck toy goes viral

Yum China said many of its toys generated “huge social buzz,” such as a dancing Pokémon toy distributed via KFC branches last year. The toy, named Psyduck—intended for humans—is a rotund duck-like creature prone to splitting headaches.

Chinese customers embraced the toy as a symbol of their frustration with the country’s snap lockdowns and seemingly never-ending mass testing. The toy reportedly sold for as much as $75 on China’s secondary market.

Wat said the company’s marketing team turned to Psyduck for a different reason: The character was less expensive to license than more famous Pokémon, like the franchise’s mascot, Pikachu.

CEO Joey Wat noted some of Yum China’s surprising marketing successes in an interview with Fortune.
Qilai Shen—Bloomberg/Getty Images

“There was a practical consideration: the pandemic. Our budget was tight.” Wat said. “Psyduck is much cheaper!”

She also explained that these more “invisible” characters presented new marketing opportunities for Yum China’s team. “They might give us a surprise,” she said.

Yum China Q4 earnings

Yum China, which was spun off from Yum Brands in 2016, owns and manages restaurants like KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, as well as other brands serving Chinese cuisine.

Yum China released its fourth-quarter earnings on Tuesday, reporting a 9% decrease in quarterly revenue year on year, though the company said revenues grew slightly if measured on a constant currency basis. Net income fell to $53 million, a drop of 89% from the same quarter a year earlier.

The company admitted that COVID disruptions in China hurt its ability to operate. As local governments tightened lockdown measures in October and November, Yum China said that up to 4,300 outlets, or a third of its stores, had to either close or limit operations.

China rolled back many of its COVID measures in early December, but the dropping of restrictions was followed by a massive wave of COVID cases. Yum China said the outbreak caused a “shortage of restaurant staff,” forcing it to close or limit operations at an average of 1,300 stores, or one-tenth of its total.

Yet the company is “cautiously optimistic” as China’s COVID surge fades and its reopening continues. The company still plans to open as many as 1,300 stores in China this year.

“The real test will be the sales trajectory after the [Chinese New Year] holiday and how the economy will rebound, given the fluid COVID conditions and macroeconomic headwinds,” Andy Yeung, Yum China’s CFO, said on a call with analysts. The company also warned of the threat posed by new COVID variants.

“We plan for the best and prepare for the worst,” Yeung said.

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Can My Dog Eat Spicy Food?

Since humans love to spice up foods, they may think their dog would appreciate a sprinkle of spice on his dinner too. But is it okay for a dog to eat spicy food? Is it okay to add a little Sriracha or chili powder on your dog’s dinner? The answer is simply no. Sharing your food with pets, especially spicy foods, may cause more problems than you may realize. Spicy foods can be toxic for dogs and could cause stomach problems including pain, diarrhea, and gas. Spicy food can also cause excessive thirst, causing your dog to vomit.

Dogs Should Stick to Dog Food

Jack Russell terrier looking up from hardwood floors where dog food bowl is.

Don’t believe anyone who tells you that dogs can eat anything that humans eat, as there are several human foods that dogs absolutely shouldn’t have. Dogs and humans may be similar in some ways, but the nutrients their bodies need and how they react to people food can be very different! For example, many people benefit from a diet filled with garlic and onions; however, dogs’ red blood cells can actually be destroyed from the smallest amounts, including powdered forms of garlic or onions. So while humans may get a boost for their immune system or reduced inflammation, dogs that get garlic in their system could develop anemia.

The overall health of pets is important. Just like humans, the healthiest dogs eat well-balanced meals and get plenty of exercise. When pet parents start feeding their dog people food, they are often creating an imbalance with their dog’s digestive system and overall wellness. This is especially dangerous with young dogs and puppies. One of the biggest dangers to feeding your dog or puppy human food is he may think all human food is up for grabs. Despite your best efforts to only feed your pup snacks on the «safe» human food list, chances are he won’t see the difference and may be more likely to try to get into a variety of foods, any one of which could be deadly. This may be a habit that’s difficult to break.

Turning Up the Heat on Taste Buds

Another thing to consider is whether or not spice is something dogs will be able to actually taste. Unlike humans, dogs don’t have 9,000 different taste buds. In fact, dogs have about 1,700 taste buds, and they are not nearly as sensitive to flavors as humans are, says the American Kennel Club. So, plain and simple, feeding dogs spicy food isn’t worth it. They won’t taste a difference, and it may upset their stomach and digestive tract. If you are looking to offer variety to your dog’s diet, you do have options beyond human food. You can try different flavors of your dog’s favorite food if possible, but generally speaking, dogs are perfectly happy eating the same food every day. Also, consider a dog’s strong sense of smell. If you’re ever got a whiff of cumin powder, you know how strong it can be. Now think about how much stronger your dog’s sense of smell is than yours. Something that strong that can make your own eyes water can have an even larger impact on your dog.

Pet parents treat their dogs just like any other member of the family. However, when it comes to what they eat, keep your pup eating his own food, instead of putting his health at risk with human food and spices.

Contributor Bio

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger

Chrissie Klinger is a pet parent that enjoys sharing her home with her furkids, two of her own children and her husband. Chrissie enjoys spending time with all her family members when she is not teaching, writing or blogging. She strives to write articles that help pet owners live a more active and meaningful life with their pets.

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