Taco Bell never met a mash-up it didn’t love. Tacos and pizza? Sure! Tacos and chicken sandwiches? Why not? Tacos and Doritos chips? Been there, sold millions.
Liz Matthews, Taco Bell’s chief food innovation officer, touted the curd-based synergy between the two brands. “We’re thrilled about this new concept with Cheez-It, which gives our fans the chance to experience the real cheese and crunch they love from both of our brands in a whole new way,” she said in a news release.
Taco Bell is clearly trying to capture the same kind of magic it did with another snack-food collaboration, its Doritos Locos Taco, which swaps a typical crunchy shell for one made with the popular chip. The menu item, which leaves just a hint of Doritos’s orange-cheese dust on an eater’s fingers (this was actually a key part of the menu item’s research and development process), has been a huge hit for Taco Bell since it was introduced in 2012.
And in another cheese-meets-crunch marriage, it has previously offered a beef burrito whose contents included Fritos corn chips.
Taco Bell, which recently opened a new mobile-app-friendly, contactless drive-through restaurant concept in suburban Minneapolis, isn’t hiding the idea that such menu items are squarely aimed at consumers’ allegiances to their favorite snack foods, relationships that often go back to their childhoods. It promised the new Cheez-It collaboration would offer an “abundantly cheesy and nostalgic, yet magically modern, dining experience.”
The Cheez-It brand, too, has dabbled in other crossovers, including a brief fling with Pizza Hut. The two combined forces for a large Cheez-It cracker stuffed with cheese and served with marinara sauce for dipping, a hippocampus of a dish that seemed doomed from the start because it failed to capitalize on the cracker’s famous crunch.
Fast-food chains often test out menus at limited locations before adding them to menus nationwide, so it’s possible that the new cracker-meets-tostada will get a wider audience. More than many of its competitors, Taco Bell seems to relish serving up a steady stream of new menu items, which sometimes means the company has to rotate items off its menu — something that often causes agitation among die-hard fans. In the case of the Mexican pizza, the company removed the popular item (along with a slate of others) in 2020, only to reintroduce it this year — which created a cycle of outcry (because there’s no such thing as bad press?) and anticipation.