DALLAS -- A program offering Cajun-style fried turkey was one of the hottest items at Tom Thumb here this holiday season.
"We've been very pleased with sales of our fried turkeys," said an official at Tom Thumb, a 50-unit division of Randalls Food Markets, Houston.
Traditional holiday fare in some parts of Louisiana, the Cajun specialty is spreading and is now catching on in Texas, local sources told SN. The turkeys are handrubbed with Cajun spices, lightly smoked and then deep-fried whole in peanut oil. For Tom Thumb's program, the 8- to 10-pound turkeys are sourced already spiced and smoked.
Tom Thumb and its sister chain Randalls both introduced the products this Thanksgiving in all stores that have deep friers. The Tom Thumb official said sales results for the program were so positive that both chains continued to offer them through Christmas.
At a Tom Thumb unit in Irving, Texas, sales of the fried birds took off to such an extent that the store had depleted its Thanksgiving supply a week before the holiday.
"When the first ad hit, we were out," said a source in the Irving store's deli. The source added that his store could not have gotten additional turkeys from nearby Tom Thumb stores if he tried, because the item was such a hit all over. "Everybody was selling out what they had. I think the company [Tom Thumb] didn't realize how popular they would be."
A deli associate in a Fort Worth Tom Thumb unit said his department sold more than 50 of the Cajun fried turkeys during the two 8-hour shifts he worked during the week of Thanksgiving. The bird alone was selling at a retail of $25 for the bird, with no trimmings, he added. No particular fanfare accompanied the introduction of the product at Tom Thumb, the division official said. In fact, just one line in the chain's holiday dinner ad called attention to it. The advertisement read, " New this year! Fried Cajun-style turkey, $25. Available in most stores. Order early, limited supply." A blurb in the chain's in-store flier also touted it.
The solo bird shared space in the division's holiday ad with component ham and turkey dinners, with side dishes and pies, for $39.99. A turkey breast dinner and a boneless ham dinner with sides, rolls and pies for $34.95; a roast turkey, with dressing and gravy, $22.95; and a boneless ham with yam casserole for $22.95 were also featured in the ad.
Tom Thumb and Randalls are the first supermarkets in Texas to offer Cajun-style fried turkey, according to a source at a Dallas daily newspaper.
"Cajun fried turkey has been gaining in popularity here. People were interested last year, but this year the momentum has increased amazingly," said Kim Pierce, food section staff writer and restaurant critic at the Dallas Morning News.
Pierce added that Tom Thumb and Randalls are getting in on the ground floor of what she sees as the beginning of a sales boom in fried turkeys.
"Until now, you had to get them at a soul-food restaurant or specialized caterer such as Catfish Joe's or Cajun Cowboy here, but I'll bet you'll see them in a lot more places, including more supermarkets, next year. One caterer told me he could have sold a thousand just for Thanksgiving if he'd had them," Pierce said.