The Real Reason KFC Changed Its Name from Kentucky Fried Chicken

The fried chicken chain had a simple reason to change its name—and it's not what you've probably heard.

It’s no secret that KFC sells addictive fried chicken to the masses cooked with a special pressure fryer and a “secret” 11 spice and herb blend. But, the company has changed its name to and from “Kentucky Fried Chicken” over the years—and has sparked numerous conspiracy theories as to why.

One of those popular theories (that has been proven false!) is that KFC was forced to change their name because of the word “chicken.” Rumors that the brand was reportedly using “mutant” chemically engineered birds sparked this wacky idea. Outside of chicken conspiracy theories, the company claimed publicly that the name change from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC was to shy away from the word “fried” for potential health-conscious patrons. Find out the things your fast food worker isn’t telling you.

The real reason KFC changed its name from Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1991? It all happened because of a trademark issue.

Here’s what actually went down: First, the Commonwealth of Kentucky trademarked its name in 1990. Kentucky was capitalizing on the various brands and products using their name to alleviate debt—and this included the fast-food fried chicken chain. Thus, anyone using “Kentucky” for their business would first need the state’s permission and would also be required to pay licensing fees. Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded to KFC instead.

Other companies and products followed suit and also changed their names. For example, “The Kentucky Derby” became “The Run for the Roses.” Neil Diamond’s song “Kentucky Woman” no longer played on the radio due to the newly imposed fee.

That said, in November 2016, KFC and the State of Kentucky settled over the use of the trademarked word “Kentucky,” with the chain then announcing they would resume their old name. Now, read about the secret that makes KFC’s fried chicken so crispy.

The Best KFC Copycat Recipes
1 / 23


Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest