DUBLIN, OHIO — Culinary team members at The Wendy’s Co. Inc. needed a distinct element to set the restaurant chain’s hot honey chicken biscuit and hot honey chicken sandwich apart from competitors’ products.

They found it in habanero peppers. Both hot honey items made their debuts on Feb. 2.

“We know we’re not the first ones to come out with a hot honey chicken sandwich,” said Eryn Bennett, manager, culinary and product innovation, in a Feb. 2 webinar.

Research and development work lasted for more than a year before the company settled on a formula that included habaneros.

“They definitely are on the higher end of the Scoville scale, but they also have a ton of flavor,” Bennett said. “What I really love about them is they’re fruity, they’re citrusy, and they’re just so nice to work with, and they blend really well with the honey we’re using.”

Wendy’s wanted to do more than just “blasting somebody’s palate,” said John Li, vice president of culinary innovation.

“The reality is, it’s all about balance,” he said. “That’s why it took a year and a half to get something like habanero, which brings all of those complex elements that a lot of other peppers actually don’t have.”

Bennett said the hot honey is added at various parts of the sandwich build and the biscuit build.

“You might get a little bit sticky after you’ve eaten the sandwich, and that’s OK,” she said. “We felt like if your fingers weren’t a little bit sticky after eating this, that we truly weren’t delivering on the hot honey experience.”

The chicken biscuit contains an all-white meat breakfast chicken fillet drizzled with honey sauce and served on a buttermilk biscuit. It sells for $3.19.

The chicken sandwich contains a spicy all-white meat chicken breast, melted pepperjack cheese, three strips of Applewood smoked bacon and crispy pickle chips topped off with hot honey and served on a toasted bun. It sells for $5.99.

Li was asked during the webinar if Wendy’s had any plans for a plant-based burger. He said Wendy’s offers salads for “flexitarians” and that the culinary team will continue to work in the plant-based burger area.

“Have we found the right product? No,” Li said.