Industry News | July 11, 2014 | QSR Exclusive Brief

Taco Bell Places Focus on Protein

Cantina Power Steak Burrito Taco Bell
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Taco Bell’s latest menu revamp has the Mexican-inspired chain poised to attract more health-conscious consumers. President and CEO Brian Niccol joined Missy Nelson, the brand’s nutrition and product developer, in announcing the national rollout of the Cantina Power Menu during a press conference call Thursday, July 10.

The Cantina Power Menu will replace the current Cantina Bell Menu, which was rolled out in 2012 to offer diners a more fast-casual experience. The new iteration doubles down on protein.

“When you look at things that are defining culture, you find powerful lifestyle movements behind those. One of those movements we’ve seen of late is really the drive toward what I would call ‘protein power solutions’ in people’s diets,” Niccol said during the press conference call. “We’re evolving the Cantina Bell platform to Cantina Power, and it’s really based on what consumers are telling us, which is [that they] love the gourmet flavors in the burritos and bowls but would love to have those flavors and the experience of Cantina in a solution that give [them] the power, the protein [for] today’s lifestyle.”

The new Cantina Power Bowl and Burrito will offer double the usual serving of chicken or steak. Cheddar cheese, reduced-fat sour cream, and an avocado ranch sauce will replace the bowl’s roasted corn salsa and creamy cilantro dressing, and the new burrito will be made without rice and beans.

“Bowls are [less than] 500 calories, burritos are 470 calories or less, and all items have almost 30 grams of lean protein,” Nelson said during the press conference call.  “This is just the beginning of our efforts to build a better, more relevant Taco Bell.”

The new platform was tested initially as an addition to the Cantina Menu, but the combination made more sense, Niccol said. What’s more, the brand is testing the Power platform at breakfast in Omaha, Nebraska, beginning August 4th. That menu includes a steak bowl, steak burrito, and entirely new to the brand, a Greek yogurt parfait.

“We’ve been kicking around doing a yogurt parfait for a while,” Niccol said. “We had to have something that differentiates [us]. And what better was to differentiate yourself than to sell Greek yogurt at a Mexican-inspired [quick serve] like Taco Bell.”

The Greek yogurt will be supplied by boutique brand Three Happy Cows and delivers 17 grams protein for 240 calories.

“It’s something I think will change people’s perception of what we can offer at breakfast,” Niccol said.

Taco Bell’s next move? Niccol said the brand will continue its focus on amping up protein in response to consumer’s needs in menu items like burritos and Crunchwraps.

By Tamara Omazic