This time, a woman will play Colonel Sanders

KFC is changing Colonels again for the rollout of its new Spicy Mountain BBQ chicken, giving the nod this time to country music and film star Reba McEntire, the first woman to portray founder Harland Sanders.

“She’s absolutely a perfect fit, given that Reba has Southern roots, but also because of her connection to KFC—she’s been a lifelong fan of the product,” said George Felix, director of marketing for KFC’s U.S. operations. “Music and country music is a big part of the campaign, and she’s the queen of country music.”

He notes that the selection fits the new chicken line, the third of what he characterizes as “Southern-inspired” variations on the chain’s signature. The Smoky Mountain chicken follows the introduction of Nashville Hot Chicken in January 2016 and Georgia Gold honey-mustard-flavored chicken a year later. Smoky Mountain will appear on menus nationwide starting Monday.

“It’s the most exciting product we’ve had in awhile, based on consumer reviews,” said Felix. “It takes its flavor from different parts of the barbecue belt. We know barbecue is a very popular flavor across the country.”

Other executives describe the option as a combination of the chain’s Extra Crispy Chicken and a sweet, smoky barbecue sauce.

Smoky Mountain BBQ will be offered as tenders, Chicken Little sandwiches and bone-in pieces. The chicken will be sold in basket meals for $4.99 each.

McEntire succeeds little-known actor Christopher Boyer in portraying the Colonel. Boyer, who was chosen because of his anonymity, has appeared as the spokesman since Dec. 28. Ad spots explain that Boyer was cheap to hire because of his low recognition and, hence, KFC could offer pot pies for $3.99. He was known as the Value Colonel.

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