The wide availability of super-cheap, calorie-laden fast food has long been fingered as one of the prime culprits behind America’s obesity epidemic. And what does Taco Bell have in the works? More super-cheap, calorie-laden fast food.
The nation’s number one taco slinger is currently testing the second incarnation of its $1 Cravings menu at restaurants in Sacramento, CA, and Kansas City, MO. This is a tweaked version of the $1 Cravings menu that was tested earlier this year in Fresno and Knoxville. If all goes well this time around, the chain could launch the menu nationwide later this year, reports Nation’s Restaurant News.
But wait: Just last month we were talking about Taco Bell’s pledge to get more fit by 2020, rethinking its combo meals so that 20 percent of them meet federal dietary guidelines.
Taco Bell execs (like those at pretty much any major fast-food chain) likely don’t see the same massive contradiction that you’re trying to wrap your head around. That’s because the customer is always right, and the fast-food giant wants to cater to every potential taco-buyer—it’s all about giving 350 million crazily diverse Americans what they want.
“Consumers want a $1 solution, and they want variety at a dollar price,” Taco Bell chief marketing and innovations officer Brian Niccol tells NRN.
Yet last month we learned that what “consumers” want—at least within the coveted millennial market—is “organic and fresh food.” It’s unlikely that much of anything on Taco Bell’s five-part $1 Cravings menu fits the bill on that score. The company did say it’d take more than a decade for it to get healthy, after all.
You’ve got “beefy” (like the Beefy Nacho Loaded Griller), “cheesy” (Cheesy Bean & Rice Burrito), “spicy” (Spicy Beef Mini Quesadilla), “crunchy” (Triple-Layer Nachos) and “sweet” (Caramel Apple Empanadas).
You hardly need a degree in marketing and consumer psychology to see what Taco Bell is doing here—the word “cravings” in the menu’s title speaks volumes. Here we’re talking about getting at what’s been called the “reptilian” brain, that primal part of us driven by animal instinct and basic desire (and poor decisions about late-night eating), which predates the higher levels of thinking that gave us Mozart, quantum physics and a return to sustainable, grass-fed beef.
In other words, “cravings” is a tacit license not to think about what you’re eating—just pony your hungry, salivating zombie of a self up to the counter and plunk down a buck or two. Which, when you boil it down, is pretty much what got us into the messy crisis (both public health and environmental) we have with food in the first place.