New York — In 2012, Frito-Lay, Inc. launched a rather unconventional product in an unexpected place — Doritos Locos Tacos at Taco Bell. Four years later, the company is taking the lessons from that highly successful campaign and applying them across a range of snacks to extend consumers’ brand experiences beyond a traditional bag of chips.
Some thought Doritos Locos Tacos was just another food stunt destined to fail — recall KFC’s Double Down sandwich with chicken breasts as the “buns” — but the tacos sold nearly one million units a day in 2014. They are Taco Bell’s most successful new item launch ever and are still on the menu four years later.
Now Frito-Lay is partnering with Burger King to launch a product that’s getting a similar amount of viral craze — Mac ‘N’ Cheetos, a fried mac and cheese bite with a crunchy Frito-Lay Cheetos coating. Consumers are posting their reactions to the product, reviewing the fast food item, and recreating the recipe at home with crushed Cheetos and a personal deep fryer.
Whether, the product proves as successful as Dorito Locos Tacos isn’t really the point. Frito-Lay has the bigger picture in mind, which is to expand its brands beyond the chip aisle and to “Think Outside The Bag,” as the company calls the campaign.
“We’re trying to get outside traditional retail and really go into more channels where people are enjoying food and beverage and bring them unique innovation in that space,” Marissa Solis, vice-president of Pepsi Co.’s away from home marketing division, tells Candy & Snack TODAY.
This means placing more Frito-Lay brands in stadiums, movie theaters, colleges and amusement parks, in ways consumers aren’t traditionally expecting to engage with them.
For example, earlier this year the company launched Top ‘N’ Go, a specially designed walking taco bag for it’s Fritos corn chips that’s longer and opens lengthwise to increase the chips’ exposure to cheese, meat and vegetable toppings. The product can already be found at the Dallas Cowboy’s stadium, Six Flags America LP amusement parks, SeaWorld Entertainment and Sheetz, Inc. gas stations, where consumers can build their walking taco from a touch screen kiosk.
“We’re seeing people take our products and make their own kinds of recipes and creations so it’s a lot around customization and using our products as a base of inspiration,” Solis says. Frito-Lay is expanding the concept to include its Doritos, Ruffles, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Tostitos brands.
“Tostitos have always been a great carrier for nachos, but the challenge with nachos is that they’re not exceptionally portable,” Pat O’Toole, senior director of marketing for the brand, tells Candy & Snack TODAY. “This allows consumers to put whatever toppings they want on top of the chips.”
The company has even launched a food truck service that’s bringing the concept to college campuses and outdoor events all over the country.
And crossing platforms with its brands is also on the table, as the company now offers a spin that combines Cheetos and popcorn. From movie theaters nationwide to stands at Yankee Stadium, vendors can add popcorn kernels, Cheetos and a buttery, cheesy Cheetos mix directly to a professional popper to make the indulgent item that can be eaten hot or cold.
“We’re looking for partners that have a lot of synergies with our consumers,” Solis explains, noting Burger King as a natural extension of the success with Taco Bell and Pepsi and Frito-Lay’s official sponsorship of the NFL. “These are the things we’re going to get into more — non traditional snacks that are outside the bag.”