Wendy's goes BBQ pork crazy

Bruce Horovitz

It must be state fair season.

Wendy's on Thursday announced that it had rolled out the several BBQ pulled pork products -- for a limited time -- that sound like the kind of things you might expect to find on the fairgrounds somewhere between the Deep Fried Twinkies and the Bacon-Wrapped Turkey Legs.

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Like Wendy's BBQ Pulled Pork French Fries. Or get this: a BBQ Pulled Pork Cheeseburger. The third item sounds tame by comparison: a BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich.

Ingredients -- and nutritionals -- tell the tale:

Wendy's Co. signage is displayed outside of a restaurant in Torrance, California.
Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The BBQ Pulled Pork French Fries ($2.99) come smothered with warm cheddar cheese sauce, hickory-smoked pulled pork and are topped with one of three barbecue sauces. It's 470 calories with 23 grams of fat and 1,020 milligrams of sodium.

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The BBQ Pulled Pork Cheeseburger ($4.99) is a burger patty topped with pulled pork, cheddar cheese, cole slaw and barbecue sauce. It's 640 calories, or about 90 calories more than a Big Mac. It has 33 grams of fat and 1,260 milligrams of sodium.

The BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich ($4.49) comes with pulled pork, slaw and barbecue sauce on a brioche bun. It's 410 calories, with 14 grams of fat and 1,230 milligrams of sodium.

One nutritionist is concerned about these numbers. "The sodium content is more than half of what is recommended for an entire day," says author and registered dietitian Brenda Davis. She's especially appalled by the pulled pork cheese fries. "It is never a good idea to take a perfectly respectable vegetable and throw it into a deep fryer, then pour on more fat and salt. These are the kinds of foods that are doing us in."

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But they're also the kinds of things consumers -- particularly younger consumers -- are clamoring for. "We're known for menu innovation...and customization," says Brandon Solano, senior vice president of marketing at Wendy's, in a statement.

Both, of course are necessary ingredients to catch the eye of Millennials, who Wendy's is targeting with these products."Millennials do love flavor, especially the hot variety," says Linda Lipsky, a restaurant industry consultant. Perhaps that's why three BBQ sauce options -- sweet, smoky or spicy -- with the meals. "People love barbecue flavor," she says.

Even then, Wendy's is hardly the first to the pork party. For years, McDonald's has shuffled its popular McRib sandwich on and off the menu for years. Burger King rolled out a Memphis BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich a few years ago. About the same time, the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. chains rolled out the Memphis BBQ Thickburger.

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Pork is a relative bargain for the chains because it costs substantially less than 100% beef, notes Lipsky. Maybe that's one reason why pork demand grew by 5.6% in 2013, according to the National Pork Board.

The BBQ pork items will be available through early November.

But Lipsky offers Wendy's another idea for the BBQ pork. "I actually think it might do well over their baked potato."

By Bruce Horovitz, USA Today