Update on KFC --- Does Anyone Know if This is True?

On Monday I gave you a recipe for that heavenly KFC Cole Slaw that we all love so much. Putting that on the blog got me thinking about the KFC/Kentucky Fried Chicken name change and wondering why it happened.

Back in 1991, Kentucky Fried chicken announced that it was officially changing its name to "KFC". I had always heard that this was to eliminate the word "fried" from the name in a reaction to the "low fat" craze sweeping the country. Being from Kentucky, I was disappointed that they chose to do this.

But when I went looking for the reason I found almost as many answers as KFC has drum sticks -- Some FAR more believable than others. This one seems to be the most likely. The version here is from Snopes.com.

The public relations reason given for the name change was that health-conscious consumers associated the word "fried" with "unhealthy" and "high cholesterol," causing some of them to completely shun the wide variety of "healthy" menu items being introduced at Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets. The new title and image were designed to lure back customers to a restaurant now offering foods branded as "better for you," we were told.

It sounded good, but the real reason behind the shift to KFC had nothing to do with healthy food or finicky consumers: it was about money — money that Kentucky Fried Chicken would have had to pay to continue using their original name. In 1990, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, mired in debt, took the unusual step of trademarking their name. Henceforth, anyone using the word "Kentucky" for business reasons — inside or outside of the state — would have to obtain permission and pay licensing fees to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It was an unusual and brilliant scheme to alleviate government debt, but it was also one that alienated one of the most famous companies ever associated with Kentucky. The venerable Kentucky Fried Chicken chain, a mainstay of American culture since its first franchise opened in Salt Lake City in 1952, refused as a matter of principle to pay royalties on a name they had been using for four decades. After a year of fruitless negotiations with the Kentucky state government, Kentucky Fried Chicken — unwilling to submit to "such a terrible injustice" — threw in the towel and changed their name instead, timing the announcement to coincide with the introduction of new packaging and products to obscure the real reasons behind the altering of their corporate name.

Kentucky Fried Chicken were not the only ones who bravely refused to knuckle under. The name of the most famous horse race in North America, held every year at Churchill Downs, was changed from the "Kentucky Derby" to "The Run for the Roses" for similar reasons; many seed and nursery outfits that had previously offered Kentucky Bluegrass switched to a product known as "Shenendoah Bluegrass" instead; and Neil Diamond's song "Kentucky Woman" was dropped from radio playlists at his request, as the licensing fees he was obligated to pay the Commonwealth of Kentucky exceeded the performance royalties he was receiving for the airplay.

Update: In November 2006, KFC and the State of Kentucky finally reached an undisclosed settlement over the former's use of the trademarked word "Kentucky," and the restaurant chain announced it would be resuming its former name of "Kentucky Fried Chicken."

I hope that update is true. I like traveling around the world and seeing the name of my home everywhere.

Does anyone have any better answers for this? I would love to hear them. Please leave a comment below.


PS New recipe tomorrow from Ruth's Chris Steakhouse!

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