If your Taco Bell order tastes a little funky next year, it might not be from the questionable quality of the meat. Today, everyone's favorite provider of FourthMeal announced that it will remove artificial colors and flavors, high fructose corn syrup, and added trans fats from its menu by the end of 2015.
If you need some inspiration to save your struggling startup you might want to take another look at your favorite late-night snack, because Taco Bell is a fast food chain that has mastered the art of the pivot. In the last few years it's put Doritos dust on its hard shells, it launched a breakfast menu with tiny waffle tacos, and it's working on filling Cap'n Crunch-covered donuts with something called "milk icing."
Taco Bell is the master of the pivot
While the company's latest move sounds bold, the taco chain isn't necessarily blazing a trail here — many leading fast food chains have been changing their menus lately because of consumer pressure. In the last few months alone, Panera dropped more than 150 artificial ingredients from its foods, McDonald's abandoned antibiotics in its chickens, and Chipotle completely removed GMOs from its menu.
If the idea of unhealthy brands buckling to consumer demands for healthier products sounds too good to be true, it just might be; the impact of these changes has been rightly questioned in the wake of their announcements. Chipotle made its decision in the face of 25 years' worth of scientific studies that show that genetically modified foods are not more risky to consume than conventionally grown plants. And companies that decided to reduce the use of trans fats, like Panera (and now Taco Bell), aren't really breaking new ground as much as they are catching up with the times.
Unsurprisingly, there's at least one big caveat to Taco Bell's announcement. Liz Matthews, Taco Bell's chief innovation officer, tells AdAge that the change will affect "95 percent of the chain's menu, but will not impact beverages or co-branded items." So while the company might tout the reduction of high fructose corn syrup across its "core menu," the sweetener will still flow with a fury at the fountain. The good news, Cap'n Crunch Delight fans, is that your milk-filled donuts are safe.