NEW YORK Pepsico announced today that its fast food division had filed for bankruptcy, seeking protection from its creditors in a federal magistrate's court. Pepsico's stock has been in steady decline since CEO Harlan "Toby" Sanders III made the surprise decision to shift the profitable fried chicken chain to a purely eel-based menu.
Sanders began his tenure at Pepsico with a series of bold innovations, reflected in his decision to change the name of the storied franchise to "Kentucky Fried Eel." In fact the name was a misnomer, as the eels were usually served raw, or occasionally sold live in rolled up newspapers to often startled customers.
Sanders also changed the "secret herbs and spices" that gave the chicken its distinctive flavor, remarketing them as the "secret herbed mucus." The name referred to the thick layer of mucus which protects eels from underwater germs and parasites. For children KFE continued its Happy Meal offer, but renamed it the "Happy Eel," again a misnomer in that the live moray eel trapped inside the box was typically quite angry.
The mood at Pepsico today provided a marked contrast from the fanfare surrounding Sanders' hiring. At the time he was heralded as a bold fast food visionary who would guide the company into 21st century cuisine.
Board member Bill Sarnby announced that he was "excited about the new direction this company's taking. I think we've shown what we can do with chicken, and we're ready to expand, we're ready to grow. Americans are ready for eel."
Apparently, however, Americans were not ready for eel, at least in the whole. Sales plummeted after the change, and though KFE enjoyed mild success with its "Eel Tenders" platters, it was too little too late.
Problems were compounded when questions began to arise about KFE's connections to SKG Gruuppen, a Tromso, Norway based eel-fishing conglomerate which was rumored to have made a $400M purchase of KFC equity weeks before the changes. Analysts point to the phasing out of Colonel Sanders, the lovable and familiar face which appeared on everything fried-chicken related, and his replacement by the stern visage of Ingmar Thorkild Bloodaxe, an obscure 9th century Norwegian warlord.
Customers were also befuddled by a number of KFE's promotions, including "KFE salutes our Viking Heritage," and the replacement of the popular "kids' fun prize" with a seventy-six page treatise entitled "The Role of Eel Fishing in the Economic Restructuring of the Raasen Watershed."
Although most children enjoyed the reading material many pointed out basic grammatical and spelling lapses in the Dano-Norwegian, leading to their eventual discontinuation.
A number of factors contributed to the company's fall from fast food nirvana, but perhaps the most significant one was the public's refusal to embrace the future-oriented marketing campaign which surrounded KFE's rebirth. A series of adds depicting Norwegian astronauts beating back an invasion of deadly space eels was pulled when viewers complained that the throbbing jungle beats and accelerated Clockwork Orange-like dialogue made the advertisements nearly incomprehensible. And a much ballyhood attempt to sponsor the Winter X-Games was scrapped when KFE refused to back down from its initial demand that X-Games snowboarders and tricks-skiers incorporate frozen eels into their routines.
"The Norwegians have just gotten so trendy," commented one of the readers polled today, echoing a general trend. "The whole eel thing seemed very calculated. Like it was less about the food than the image."
Others polled agreed that while the eel may have been tasty, it was ultimately too hard to countenance eating a foreign ischythian at the expense of homegrown American mammals.
"I just couldn't stand sending my dollars over to Norway to make them eels, what with all the poverty and unemployment here at home," said another reader. "Now, Ferret King," he said, referring to McDonald's Corp.'s popular new venture, "that's good American eats."