Just how absurd and twisted can food in America get? In a nation overrun with obesity, our corporations keep belching out bizarre new things they call food.
The latest entry in the pantheon of junk-food entrees is Domino’s Pizza’s Specialty Chicken. Yes, that’s Specialty Chicken. This isn’t just chicken in the eyes of Domino’s, which has the gall to call the food an innovation.
“Our new Specialty Chicken is one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had,” Domino’s Pizza chief marketing officer Russell Weiner proudly proclaimed in the company’s surreal news release. The new item comes in four varieties and is essentially a pizza in which pieces of breaded chicken have replaced the crust.
Russell is just oozing enthusiasm. “Our pizza chefs have taken chicken to a whole new level, using our unique ingredients to create these four bold flavors. There’s nothing quite like Domino’s Specialty Chicken on the market today,” he bragged.
Umm, Russell, I’m sorry, but I have news. Menu items that are short on good nutrition and long on gimmicks, novelty and processed foods are the rage. You’re not doing anything new.
Here’s Exhibit A — KFC’s Double Down, which is bacon and cheese sandwiched between two pieces of fried chicken. Then there’s Taco Bell’s waffle taco, the only thing to eat when you want to start your day off with 30 grams of fat. For its part, 7-Eleven has tested mozzarella sticks made with a Doritos crust. And of course, we can’t forget the superstar of this trend — Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Tacos. It has reached $1 billion in sales, on the popularity of a shell that’s been deemed worthy of the processed food hall of fame. What’s inside the taco is no better for you.
These foods are engineered to appeal to our taste buds, while good nutrition is a secondary consideration. I tried the spicy jalapeño pineapple Tuesday night, and it’s definitely tasty. It will sell. But is Domino’s specialty chicken good for you? Short answer: no (see the full nutrition facts here). It is loaded with saturated fat and sodium. One serving of the classic hot buffalo gives you 45 percent of your daily sodium. A serving of the crispy bacon and tomato includes 23 percent of your daily saturated fats.
Domino’s gets one thing right about innovation: It’s done something daring and different. Hey, what if the pizza crust was made out of meat? But having the boldness to hatch something a drunken college student might dream up isn’t an innovation.
There’s nothing innovative about launching new processed foods for an overweight nation to binge on. Using the word innovation is increasingly popular, while true innovations remain rare. Nissan’s slogan is “Innovation that excites,” despite largely producing cars that blend in with what most carmakers are doing. Then there’s Kellogg’s peanut butter pop-tart, which chief executive John Bryant brazenly deemed an innovation.
Here’s a real food innovation — a hamburger grown in a lab. Lab-grown meat could address the troubling methane gas that livestock produce, as well as the concerns of animal-rights activists. It might transform our world for the better, which is what real innovations do.
When Domino’s puts something on its menu that addresses climate change — or at least respects the problem of obesity — I’ll be fine with their use of the word “innovation.”