Back in 2006, long before anyone ever heard of Doritos Locos Tacos, General Mills (GIS) made a flavored taco shell. It was a product ahead of its time, apparently: Consumers didn’t care, and the Old El Paso Stand ‘N Stuff taco shells in salsa and nacho flavor were discontinued. Now, eight years after its initial flub and two years after Taco Bell turned a nacho cheese taco shell into a best-seller, Old El Paso has decided it’s worth another go.
Bold Nacho Cheese Flavored Taco Shells will hit stores in August. Unlike the previous version, in which the cheese flavor was baked in, these have cheese flavor sprayed on—“blasted” as Old El Paso describes it—after the shells have been baked and fried. “We took a more topical approach,” Rob Clements, R&D manager for Old El Paso, says. The result, he says, is a cheesier-tasting taco with stronger “top notes.” The company is also using more cheese.
The most important lesson for Old El Paso, though, is that as with nacho-cheese tortilla chips, feeling is believing. Spraying on the cheese made the flavor more intense and also left cheese residue on fingers, something people actually like. Doritos figured this out a long time ago: “Licking the dust from the fingers in its pure form, without the chip to dilute the impact, sends an even larger flavor burst to the brain,” wrote the New York Times. While the whole Old El Paso taco shell is orange, only the outside gets a blast.
Regarding the nacho cheese flavor itself, Old El Paso found that it had a lot of flexibility, as ”nacho cheese” is not actually a real thing. The company let consumers determine what blend of cheese flavors it would call “nacho,” says Clements—a combination of cheddar cheese and blue cheese, as it turned out.
If successful, this product could kick off taco shell 2.0: the flavor wave. Of course PepsiCo (PEP)—which already released the very meta Doritos Locos Tacos-flavored Doritos chips—could just as easily take its Doritos-Locos-Tacos shells to the grocery aisle. A representative for PepsiCo responded that “we don’t have anything to share at the moment.” So it’s not out of the question.