Earlier this year, we found out that the Taco Bell innovation team comes up with 4,000 ideas annually. That's a lot of burrito spin-offs, and also a lot of taste-tests we'd like to attend. But obviously not all of the innovation team's babies can play in the big leagues, so we decided to take a look at the major new stuff Taco Bell's put out this year (so far) and assess their chances of making it to 2015. We'll have to revisit at year's end, when TBell inevitably puts out a Chimichanada, but for now, here are our predictions:
What is it? The original "signature line" is comprised of the Waffle Taco, the A.M. Crunchwrap, and Cinnabon Delights, though of course there're also breakfast burritos and grilled tacos a-plenty. When was it introduced? March 27th Are people into it? Uh, yeah. The Taco Bell breakfast menu has been so successful, even McDonald's is freaking out, and TBell's been steadily buildingonto the line-up with new breakfast burritos as well as the Biscuit Taco. But we'll get to that later. Will it stick around? Barring a national egg (or hashbrown) crisis, yes.
Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco
What is it? Another DLT that takes Cool Ranch as its shell and piles on shredded chicken with a Fiery sauce When was it introduced? May 8th Are people into it? Eh. Our own taste-tester was on the fence, and this fourth chapter in the DLT saga was greeted with significantly less excitement in the fast-food community. Will it stick around? It's already disappeared from the website, plus we haven't seen it hanging around the usual haunts. So it looks like it's already gone.
What is it? A tasty mutant that rolls a chicken or beef burrito into a cheese quesadilla When was it introduced? June 9th Are people into it? The Quesarito might be Taco Bell's most controversial item yet, since a lot of people think they stole the idea from another Mexican fast-food giant. But customers are ordering them regardless, and the market can probably stand to have two quesadilla-burrito hybrids. Will it stick around? It's popular, and TBell can't back down now. Affirmative.
Dr. Pepper Vanilla Float Freeze
What is it? Meant to duplicate the infinity flavors in Dr. Pepper's limited-edition Vanilla Float variety, this slushie is a more refined version of those Coke-and-whatever Slurpees you made in 7-Eleven as a kid. When was it introduced? June 10th Are people into it? All the Instagrams and tweets would suggest so. This played as more of a cult item to the soda fiends, and they quickly took the bait. Will it stick around? Sadly, this guy was always billed as a limited-run deal.
What Is It? A selection of burritos and bowls that boast premium ingredients, high protein, and low calories When was it introduced? July 17th Are people Into It? These healthier options have their advocates, but they aren't as loud as the A.M. Crunchwrap fan club. Others seem bewildered by the entire concept. Will it stick around? This one's a tough call. Plenty of snarky critics are looking for anything remotely health-conscious at Taco Bell to fail, and the menu hasn't inspired the same fervor as past innovations. But fast-food joints are under pressure to offer stuff that isn't pure cholesterol, plus this kind of approach has worked pretty well for the Bell's major competition, Chipotle. Our final verdict is a hard maybe.
Dollar Cravings Menu
What is it? An answer to that unpopular "Dollar Menu and More" business. One buck gets you your choice of 11 items, including the Beefy Fritos Burrito and a Caramel Apple Empanada. When was it introduced? August 18th Are people into it? Old dudes who hate their grandsons are! The reception has been warm, though not frenzied, which is probably the best you can expect for a dollar discount menu. Will it stick around? It's not a ton of extra work for TBell, and people love them some dollar values. Most likely, yes.
What is it? All the fixings from your favorite breakfast sandwich, stuffed into a biscuit that's shaped like a taco. When was it introduced? September 4th, but it's only in test markets Are people into it? You'd expect anything breakfast-related at Taco Bell to blow up, though this one has been met with more head-scratching than zeal. Some are concerned the chain is moving too far away from actual tacos, while others can't figure out the mechanics of actually consuming this thing. It's a generally confusing time for everyone. Will it stick around? We're leaning towards no, but would love to be proven wrong. Especially if chicken and country gravy is on the table.
Kristin Hunt is a food/drink staff writer for Thrillist, and hopes her predictions are right, or her bookie's gonna be pissed. Follow her at @kristin_hunt.