(USA Today) -- McDonald's is set to hatch a fast-food menu item in a fast-growing category it wants to own: chicken wings.
The world's biggest fast-food chain plans a limited-time roll-out of its "Mighty Wings" starting Sept. 9 -- with a nationwide roll-out to be complete by Sept. 24, says Leslie Truelove, director of marketing at McDonald's USA.
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The bone-in wings, lightly-breaded and seasoned with cayenne and chili pepper, will be available through November.
The wings will be sold in 3-, 5- and 10-packs, starting at $2.99. And customers can choose from nine sauces, ranging from creamy ranch to chipotle barbeque.
Ronald McDonald doesn't want to stay grounded as the snack takes flight in the fast-food industry.
By some estimates, wings rank among the fastest-growing category for food-on-the-run restaurants -- with sales topping $8 billion in 2012, reports GuestMetrics. That's up 11% over a year earlier, the research firm estimates.
"Wings is a major move" says Scott Hume, editor of the BurgerBusiness blog, which broke the news Monday. "It's like the Colonel adding a cheeseburger."
Mighty Wings will make McDonald's a "serious competitor" to KFC, Popeye's, Church's and other chicken chains, Hume adds.
Industry analysts are already impressed. "We view the introduction of Mighty Wings as a meaningful catalyst" for improved sales, says Lynne Collier, a restaurant analyst at the firm Sterne Agee.
The chicken segment seems to be on fire. The move by McDonald's comes less than a year after fast-food rival KFC upended its menu and began selling boneless chicken.
Then in April, competitor Chick-fil-A upgraded its salad offerings in a bid to to appeal a wider consumer segment, especially Millennials.
Monday's announcement by McDonald's "continues the blurring of the lines between burger, chicken, sandwich and pizza chains," says Hume.
And it's a bid by McDonald's to juice sluggish sales that have plagued most fast-food companies in recent months. "The market is such that chains need menu news continuously, not occasionally," says Hume.
McDonald's executives believe Mighty Wings will be a hit with their customers. The wings were tested in Atlanta, in the fall of 2012, and have since returned to 280 Atlanta area locations.
Next comes figuring out where all those wings will come from if the menu item is a smash. It could be an issue over time, which is one reason why the roll-out will be limited for now.
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