My old friend Keith Nunes, writing his column for Food Business News, hoisted his keyboard trumpet and played Taps for the 'science' of food. He wrote "Taco Bell, a Yum! Brands business unit, plans to remove all artificial flavors and colors from its food and replace them with alternatives perceived as natural by the end of 2015. The company also has set a goal of 2017 to remove all artificial preservatives and additives."
Quoting a statement from TB CEO Brian Nicol in their boiler-plated press release, Nunes wrote, “People haven’t slowed down, and more than ever want quality and convenience. They are seeking more information and a variety of options they can customize to meet their lifestyle, without giving up the flavors they love or the innovative food they expect at Taco Bell. They’re also telling us less is más when it comes to ingredients, so we’re simplifying with natural alternatives and staying true to who we are and what makes us unique.”
Shades of the Hades unleashed by Chipotle. Who would have thought the fearful foodies favorite could have forced the hand of the purveyor of the Fourthmeal, that very-late-in-the-night place for the heartiest of partiers to grab a plate of Nachos Bellgrande®, otherwise known as 'a large platter of crisp, freshly prepared daily tortilla chips covered with hearty beans, seasoned beef, warm nacho cheese sauce, diced ripe tomatoes and reduced fat sour cream?"
Does that sound like a recipe for people who are concerned about artificial coloring or multi-syllabic preservatives? Do they really give a rat's hindquarters if their seasoned beef might have been injected with too much dihydrogen monoxide or their sour cream is 'reduced fat'?
I've been in my neighborhood Taco Bell late at night and most of their consumers appeared to be people trying to soak up some of that six pack in their belly before they became entirely too drunk to drive home. Very few of them seemed to be of the 'reduced fat' variety, either.
Lock stepping behind Brian Nicol, Liz Matthews, TB's chief food innovation officer, gushed, “We’re part of an exciting time — a food revolution,. Today’s customers are more curious and interested about food than ever. They want to understand what they’re eating and expect to know more about it. Their exploration in food is a journey, and one that we have also been on for the past 10 years. We are excited to bring new tools and the right information that is relevant to our fans today. We’re making it easy for them to understand what’s in our food and providing options for all of today’s lifestyles and price points. We’re not stopping here, and we are thrilled to bring our fans along.”
I wonder if the marketing folks at Taco Bell think they can use their menu simplification to lure away some of Chipotle's customers? Could TB's appeal be to a much more basic demographic? People who just want a couple of tacos and a burrito and, by the way, "Here's my coupon for ten cents off your already low. low price?"
Bottom Line: Sam's Club knows Costco isn't a direct competitor. Maybe Taco Bell needs to realize it does not directly compete with Chipotle. Foodies and latter day hipsters adore Costco and Chipotle; neither group would ever be caught at Sam's or TB, even at 2:00 AM.