The end of the Double Down at KFC saw the return of fan favourite Hot & Spicy, which has triggered a spate of ‘spicy chicken’ launches at fast food joints across the country.

KFC had teased the return of Hot & Spicy on its social media channels late last week, but only confirmed it on Tuesday.

“You want it, you got it!” the company wrote on Facebook. “Hot & Spicy is back to heat things up.”

The response was overwhelming. The post generated thousands of likes, comments and shares from fans who had been eagerly awaiting its return. Hot & Spicy is available in KFC stores for a limited time about once every year, but there is a growing consumer movement to have it available at all times – calls which have so far fallen on deaf ears, with the company intent on keeping Hot & Spicy as a cult menu item.

Yesterday McDonald’s also jumped on the spicy chicken bandwagon, with its new Spicy Chicken McNuggets. The nuggets will come with a choice of Spicy Sticky BBQ or Aoili dipping sauces. The McDonald’s launch in New Zealand coincided with the launch in Australia, with Australian consumers also getting spicy shaker fries.

“McDonald’s chicken McNuggets have something of a cult following in New Zealand,” said a McDonald’s spokesperson. “A recent McNugget post on our Facebook page received over 200,000 comments and nearly five million views. We often introduce limited time dipping sauces, and the spicy McNuggets were a natural extension for customers keen on a variation of one of their favourite menu items. To get a new product to market typically takes 12-18 months, so this is something we’ve been working on with Ingham’s for some time. Kiwis are always keen to try something new and our recent sriracha burger range was also popular.”

The spokesperson would not specify whether the launch was timed to coincide with KFC’s Hot & Spicy.

However, despite the spicy chicken launches from two of New Zealand’s largest fast food companies, Burger King also chose this week to launch its new Fiery Chicken Fries.

“CAN YOU HANDLE THE HEAT?!?” the company asked Facebook users. “Introducing BK’s Fiery Chicken Fries. Get ready to spice up your life. Literally.”

So far social media response has been muted, with fewer than 100 likes or comments. The Fiery Chicken Fries are a tweak on the company’s chicken fries, launched in 2016.

The spicy chicken war was a subplot to the ongoing Burger King marketing campaign targeting McDonald’s. While McDonald’s has been celebrating the 50-year anniversary of its signature Big Mac burger by offering it all day (previously having only been available from 10:30am) for a limited time, Burger King has announced that its Whopper burger will be available all day in perpetuity. Billboards around the country also offer size comparisons between the Whopper and Big Mac, with the words “In their defence, it’s always been this ‘big.’”

Overall though, social media users were adamant declaring their loyalty to KFC.

“First McDonald’s, now Burger King,” wrote one on the post announcing Burger King’s Fiery Fries. “You just can’t beat the Hot n Spicy from the Colonel unfortunately.”