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Taco Bell Won't Stop Tinkering With the Doritos Locos Juggernaut

Doritos Locos Tacos are already Taco Bell’s (YUM) best sellers, and a new flavor joining the lineup for a limited time on Thursday will try to keep up the cross-corporate momentum. The Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch variation is much like the existing Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos; it just replaces ground beef with chicken and a new, spicy ranch sauce. Aside from this zesty condiment, the other ingredients can already be found in the company’s kitchens. Customers can always customize their DLTs to get chicken instead of beef.

Taco Bell sent an early taste to my office—and, yes, it’s indeed spicy, as promised, and the sauce makes it taste noticeably different from a regular DLT with chicken. The company would like you to think there’s some magic in this little taco too:


Spicy chicken won’t immediately be joining the regular line of Doritos Locos Tacos—which includes fiery and nacho cheese-flavored shells filled with ground beef. It’s part of the chain’s strategy to engage consumers with “new spicy experiences,” in the on-message formulation of Stephanie Purdue, Taco Bell’s vice president of marketing. Still, the company is leaving open the option to keep the new chicken-filled cool ranch item available past July 20 if it does well.

A few things work in favor of the spicy chicken taco. Although beef still features more prominently on Taco Bell’s menu, chicken is becoming a more popular source of protein, especially in fast food. As the popularity of sriracha and other hot sauces reflects, food consumers are into both spice and heat now.

Purdue says the idea to swap out ground beef for chicken in the new taco came from gauging response to the launch of the cool ranch-flavored shell in March 2013. It made sense, considering that chicken and ranch sauce is such a popular combination. From there, Taco Bell had to decide what to pair it with. The company was already working on the Fiery DLT (which made its debut in August), and adding spice seemed to be a good fit, based on food trends.

Don’t think Taco Bell has finished serving up novelties in what is already a novelty item—combining Doritos (PEP) chip flavors with the chain’s hard-shell tacos. The coming wave of Doritos Locos Tacos will put spice at the forefront. “You can completely transform the eating experience,” Purdue promises, “by really thinking about the flavor pairing of the inside and the outside of the shell.” Under consideration, in some arrangement, are habanero peppers and bacon.

Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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