Since the release of their now famous Doritos Locos Tacos, Taco Bell has been on a food mashup spree. From the Sriracha Quesarito to their Cap’n Crunch doughnut holes, the chain has strayed from its fast-mexican origins to cater to a new generation that craves crazier combinations.
Modern food trends such as cronuts and chicken and waffle sandwiches harp on the novelty of combining unlikely foods. The folks at Taco Bell are trying to bring these “foodie” trends to the masses.
It’s a genius marketing scheme, but if “Flamin Hot Fritos Dip” is now considered “foodie” I think its time to officially retire that word.
Over the past year or so, Taco Bell’s aggressive rampage of ridiculous menu additions have placed the once-basic mexican fast food chain into a haven for gastronomic novelties.
As chains like Taco Bell and McDonald’s have seen a decline in sales with the popularity of “fast casual” alternatives like Chipotle, new menu items offer an opportunity to keep the millennial demographic committed to a brand.
While you may be thinking that this is just sounds like they are appealing to their stoner fan base, Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol told GrubStreet he sees it differently. He claims he is actually creating a “foodie experience” that goes beyond the munchies.
“Millennials’ tastes have evolved to where they want these unique foodie experiences, and the definition of that is from Cap’n Crunch to Sriracha,” said Niccol.
Evolved or devolved? Maybe its time to hold an intervention on millennial food culture.
Food is now fun, and it should be fun. Good eats exist beyond fancy restaurants today and we are all totally down with that. But this doesn’t mean that we’ve digressed back to our days of only picking out cereal for the cartoon on the box. We aren’t completely oblivious to flavor or quality as Niccol seems to believe.
Yes, its exciting to get adventurous and try new food combos but Taco Bell has exploited this excitement to the fullest.
Taco Bell is right, millennials’ taste HAS evolved. It’s now about appreciating creative, complex and less familiar flavors and to valuing quality, not giving a fun name to a hot pink doughnut hole.
What Taco Bell’s CEO is mistaking for the foodie experience is the obsession with novelty over flavor. Put a fun name on it, combine unlikely foods, and there you go, a fast-food hit is born! This isn’t bad, its just playing into the kids in us that loved dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets and Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes. Its fun, but doesn’t taste much better.
Putting Cap’n Crunch and Fritos into all of its selections may boost revenue, but if they really want to create this foodie experience, Taco Bell should put that money into buying better quality ingredients and developing the flavors of their current menu items.
Chipotle is not the success it is today because of any novel food mashup. It tastes good. Plus, they care about where their ingredients come from. This should be a real “foodie experience.” Not eating a biscuit molded into the shape of a taco.
The concept of what a “foodie” or “foodie experience” is has gotten lost in a sea of cronuts and Doritos tacos. Is it something different from the norm? Is it embracing new flavors? Is it harking back on old-school favorites? Who knows.
While Taco Bell is trying to create the most wacky foods in an effort to become more “foodie,” many trendy restaurants that the chain is trying to emulate are looking to go back to the classics.
At SXSW, David Chang of Momofuku fame coined the term “normavore” to describe how he loves eating “normal” food. Despite being one of the pioneers of fusion and funky food trends in New York and around the world, the chef eats at Taco Bell, Waffle House and enjoys cheap beer.
Like “normcore” of the food world, “normavore” goes beyond Chang, as the prevalence of dishes like mac and cheese and deviled eggs at restaurants reflects the fetishization of American classics.
So let’s drop the labels. Young people like novelties, chefs and food lovers like simple foods of their childhood. Turning a biscuit into a taco sounds pretty cool. Is it an indication of our evolved tastes? Should it be the “foodie experience” our generation should value? Not at all.
Like this article? Check out these related links: