Wendy's chili in cup

Photo: MachoCoffee (Shutterstock)

Conagra, owner of Chef Boyardee, Slim Jim, Banquet, and many other popular consumer brands, recently presented at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York Conference in Boca Raton, Florida. Why should we care? Because most of the presentation was a sort of “state of the union” address about how the company is doing, and in one intriguing little segment called the “Innovation Sneak Peek,” Conagra president and CEO Sean Connolly revealed the company would soon be releasing a co-branded canned pantry staple we already know and love: Wendy’s chili.

A brief history of Wendy’s chili

This product has been on the Wendy’s menu since the beginning. The recipe was developed by Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas as a measure to combat food waste, since the restaurant chain’s insistence on fresh (never frozen) beef meant using up a lot of leftover meat before it went bad. Making big batches of chili not only saved the company money but ended up adding to its bottom line.

Today, Wendy’s Chili is a staple part of the burger chain’s menu. You can order it as a standalone item or as a topping on baked potatoes and fries. It’s a perfectly serviceable blend of Midwestern ground beef, tomato, and beans, and it’s made on site at every restaurant location. And yes, the meat in the chili comes from leftover Wendy’s hamburger patties.

Allrecipes explains that any Wendy’s burgers that have reached the end of their hold time (the window in which a burger’s quality is best) are wrapped up and put in the fridge for the next day. Then they’re boiled off (in order to extract excess fat), crumbled, and eventually become part of that day’s batch of stew.

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When is Wendy’s canned chili being released?

While Connolly didn’t name any specific release date for Wendy’s canned chili in the presentation, a PR rep for the company confirmed to The Takeout that the product will be available this spring.

Eagle-eyed internet sleuths have noticed that the canned chili is already listed on Instacart, which gives us hope that it’ll be available quite soon.

Why Wendy’s canned chili release is significant

A lot of major fast food brands currently have products on grocery store shelves: Taco Bell sells hot sauces and taco kits for at-home enjoyment, Chick-fil-A offers bottled dipping sauces at grocery stores, and Arby’s makes its Horsey Sauce available for purchase at Walmart, Kroger, and Albertsons.

Wendy’s hasn’t taken a similar dive into consumer products yet, save for some random one-offs, but canned chili feels like a natural step for the brand to take. Conagra also owns chili brands Wolf, Brooks, Dennison’s, and Nalley, but none of them approach Wendy’s level of brand awareness.

It’s unlikely that Conagra will be using leftover burger patties from Wendy’s locations to make its new co-branded product, as the actual restaurants do. But since many of the chili’s base ingredients—onions, celery, bell peppers, pinto beans, kidney beans—are pretty standard, I’m not anticipating any unpleasant surprises when it comes to the quality of the consumer product. It looks like we won’t have to wait too long to try it ourselves, as we’re already on the doorstep of spring. Who’s excited?



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