Something New Coming South of the Border

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Last year wasn't one of the best sales years for Taco Bell. Perhaps it was because of a lawsuit early in the year but regardless of the reason, Taco Bell and their parent company Yum Brands Inc. seek to make this year better. With the hopes of increasing interest in the Mexican style fast-casual dining chain, they are rolling out two new test market initiatives with specific competitor markets in mind.
Last month nearly 800 Taco Bell test restaurants across 12 western U.S. states began trialing new breakfast options. The initial breakfast test market began with four cities and favorable response led to the increased test market to begin making a presence in the $42 billion food on the run breakfast market. New "First Meal" items focus on egg and steak, sausage or bacon stuffed burritos and wraps. Taco Bell has also included recognizable name brands like Cinnabon, Johnsonville, Tropicana, and Seattle's Best in the hopes of boosting interest as well. With a price range from $.99 to $2.79, more people may begin thinking "outside the bun" when it comes to breakfast.
In addition to the expanded test market of the new breakfast line, initial testing is under way for the new menu items that they hope take Taco Bell in the direction of gourmet food. Biggest Loser Chef Lorena Garcia has created the new Cantina Bell burrito, burrito bowl, and soft tacos menu items. Increased focus on nutrient rich ingredients such as seasoned white rice, black beans, and corn salsa appear to take aim at fresh-Mex competitors Chipotle Mexican Grill and Qdoba. Unfortunately, the initial testing market for Cantina Bell is restricted to the Bakersfield, California and Louisville, Kentucky areas for now. If all goes well, you may be seeing the new menu near you by the end of the year.
If neither of these new initiatives is in your area but you love Taco Bell, have no fear because the countdown has started for a new culturally cool concept that just might be.

Next week (March 8 to be exact), the new Doritos Locos Tacos arrive at Taco Bell. The new taco extends the chip-focused menu that started with the Beefy Crunch Burrito (500 calories/ 22 g fat/ 1,060 mg sodium) that includes Flamin' Hot flavored Fritos Corn Chips. There is a lot of industry talk and speculation about this new product that some say brings two favorite "junk foods" together. The updated Taco Supreme will include a shell made from Nacho Cheese Doritos Chips for a crunchy taco with the spicy orange cheese dust fingers as well. Since the test market response has been so good especially in the coveted 18-24 age demographic, plans are already underway to expand to a Doritos Cool Ranch flavored shell. With 123 Doritos flavors worldwide, the possibilities could be endless.
The Bottom Line
Restaurants update themselves all the time and Taco Bell is no different. From a clever Chihuahua that utters "Yo quiero Taco Bell," to encouraging people to "Run for the border" or to "Think outside the bun," the Taco Bell slogan has been continually updated in fun, creative ways over the years. Now after a rough year, Taco Bell is seeking to reinvent again with a shift in concept from "food as fuel" to "food as lifestyle" as suggested by their new slogan "Live Más."
Taco Bell has perfected the "fourth meal" that does big business with the late night crowd. They also offer cost conscience fast-casual options for people eating on the run especially those that put cost over nutritional content. The new Doritos Locos Tacos will pull all these factors together and offer the late night crowd a trendy, cost conscious option. It will be very interesting to see how the more nutrition conscious options fare in the test markets and if they become mainstream or simply get lost in the Doritos hype.
There is currently no official nutrition information released by Taco Bell for the Cantina Bell items to help determine if the "fresher ingredients" translate into a healthier meal option. Certainly if the new menu items offer a great taste and balanced nutrition with a great price point, competitors could find themselves on the run.When stopping by your local Taco Bell to Live Más where they aren't offering the new Cantina Bell options, we recommend sticking with the Fresco menu options whenever possible. The Fresco Grilled Steak Soft Taco (160 cal/ 4.5 g fat/ 550 mg sodium) or a Fresco Ranchero Chicken Soft Taco (170 calories/ 4 g fat/ 730 mg sodium) are both good options. Regardless of how these new initiatives fare in test markets, it is still best to cook at home as much as possible and to limit fast-casual options to special occasions when health and weight are a focus.

What do you think? Is Taco Bell moving in the right direction with their new initiatives? What would you recommend they do?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


I used to love Taco Bell when I used to eat ground beef, but I have not been in years. Report
I'm disappointed in Spark People for promoting Taco Bell at all. I bought a veggie Cantina burrito at a TB drive thru about a month ago and was shocked to see how ridiculously high the calorie/fat content was. copy and paste this
AND TAKE NOTE that the calories are in the SECOND column of this chart, not the first column. I think Taco Bell needs to re-evaluate their definition of 'healthy'.
I actually love Taco Bell but I never eat there because it is so unhealthy. If I do, I choose the fresco items. Taco Bell is one of my favorite guilty indulgences. Very bad I know. Report
Maybe some of the items in the new menu will be a little better than bad for my health, but Taco Bell will need to go a lot farther before I think eating there would actually be a good nutrition choice for me. Report
Every time I ate at Taco Bell I got sick (the whole two times). So I don't eat there any more. Easy as that.

And for those of you thinking that Subway is actually healthy, give your head a shake. Report
Sounds good, I like Taco Bell, but never everyday or more than one day a month. Report
This may be well-intentioned but this does not help me in my weight loss battle. Seasoned white rice is nutrient rich? 500 calorie doritos/frito's filled burritos? The possibilities for weight gain are the only thing "endless" when you eat tacos wrapped in Doritos shells. Sorry, but this seems as helpful as having a blog describing domino's new pizza offerings. Report
How is "seasoned white rice" considered a "nutrient rich" ingredient?

Fritos and Doritos are included in menu items mentioned here? No nutritional information is available for some of the items described.

This is such blatant advertising for Taco Bell. Why would Spark People even post this blog? Report
There are people who love eating at Taco Bell however, I'm not a fast food eater. Thanx for the information as, it may hit someone who needs to know this to make better choices although may not give up on the fast food restaurants. Knowledge is power and I've noticed better menu items at Taco Bell just looking at the commercials! Report
Let them just fill the darn dorito shell with the fattiest sour cream and let us have at it. Who cares what goes in as long as their bottom line goes up. SMH! Report
Don't eat at Taco Bell.. and this blog isn't encouraging me to change this. Details on nutrition would have helped. Report
I'm not sure why this advertisement for Taco Bell was used as a focus blog for the day. This is not really the quality I have come to expect from spark people. Report
Not everyone who goes to Taco Bell has an obesity issue, so I imagine they can have some "healthy" options and still keep their standard favorites. I like going to SUBWAY instead. Report
I don't really understand why this advertisement for taco bell showed up as spark people blog focus. This isn't really the kind of information I have come to rely in from spark people. Report
I hardly ever eat at fast food joints. Sometimes there is no other choice...and I pick what is in the area and what looks healthier. Five times a year I'm not going to worry about it. Report
I'll pass on Taco Bell......and most other fast food joints. Just my choice...thank God!~ Report
Not sure what to do with this blog. It seems more like an advertisement since there are no nutrient facts for the upcoming items. They could be colossal fat and calorie diasters! Or they could be lean and nutritious. Guess we'll wait and see... Report
Huh. This sounds more like a Taco Bell press release, than a Spark Blog. Weird.

Why the promoting of the Doritos Taco? That sounds absolutely awful, and I can't see that being healthy.

I hope Spark hasn't sold out... Report
This blog entry inspired me to write my own entry and share my experience with eating Taco Bell and fast food in general. If a skunk eats Taco Bell and becomes obese what do you think is happening to people when they eat this stuff? Report
Fast foods are my down-fall. The fact that they provide immediate gratification makes them so tempting, especially when you find yourself constantly on the go. And the sodium levels - even the frozen foods that are supposedly "lean" contain your entire day's worth of to stay away and make your own South of the Border meal. Report
I think that it's a great idea for Taco Bell to take steps to make their menu more healthy. More and more people are trying to make smarter food decisions and I think fast food chains are beginning to realize that they need to update their menus to grab that new demographic. Report
I am sure I have eaten my weight (and considerable weight it is) in Taco Bell products. Sometimes I still crave it.

I am sure the new everythings are so, so delicious.

I am grateful to God I am not DEAD from eating all that crap, and I will N-E-V-E-R eat ANY of it ever again. Report
I usually stay away from fast food as most of the menu items are so unhealthy, but I do recognize its convenience when I am on the road or in a rush. The new chip focused items sound AWFUL healthwise -- 22 grams of fat and over a 1000 grams of sodium on one item?? Thanks for letting us know that there are healthy options at Taco Bell, a place I have wanted to try when the Mexican food temptation hits. Report
we must STOP with factory-processed "fast foods" and have all our SP folks here get healthier by promoting home cooked FAST FOODS...such as oats for bfast, an apple, a banana, some other fruit for snacks andlunch and so on. no factory processed fast foods! none of them will help with weight loss. Report
I don't really care for Taco Bell. However, if the offer the new Cantina menu in my area I will try it. I think it is smart that they are trying to offer "healthy" options but I think they would be more successful if they offered other things rather than versions of what they already serve. I know if they offerd healthier salads or something other than burritos or tacos, I would eat there more often since my kids love Taco Bell. Report
I love taco bell. I don't eat there very often at all. Maybe couple of times in a year. And I have never tried any of their "new" items in the past, I always get crunchy tacos. But if they serve healthier options I just might try one next time I go. Report
I would recommend they create an entire healthy options menu but other then that I dont think of Taco Bell as food!!! Report