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Doritos Locos Tacos Improved Perception Of Taco Bell And Doritos, Study Shows

Posted: 04/11/2012 2:27 pm Updated: 04/11/2012 3:16 pm

If you were to read the comments on one of HuffPost Food's stories about the much-ballyhooed Doritos Locos Tacos at Taco Bell, you might get the impression that most people were aghast at and offended by the snack. But a new study of consumer attitudes, by research firm BrandIndex, shows that the release of the Doritos Locos Tacos actually boosted brand perception of both Taco Bell and Doritos by a considerable degree -- at least temporarily.

BrandIndex regularly asks consumers whether they've recently heard negative or positive things about different companies. The company uses the responses to generate a score for brand perception, which ranges from -100, for companies perceived as completely negative, to 100, for those perceived as completely positive.

Before the release of Doritos Locos Tacos, the perception of Taco Bell was pretty crummy. Among regular visitors of Mexican restaurants, it registered a BrandIndex of 14. Doritos was slightly better off, with a 27 among those same consumers.

After the March 8 release of Doritos Locos Tacos, though both scores skyrocketed. Taco Bell hit a high of 32, while Doritos hit 50, both above average in their market sectors. The scores have since fallen back down a bit, but they're still higher than they were before the release of the tacos.

BrandIndex also released data that applied to all Americans over the age of 18, including those who don't regularly visit Mexican restaurants. Pre-Doritos Loco, they gave Taco Bell a BrandIndex of 9. Afterwards, that number climbed as high as 20, and it's still at 16.

No wonder Taco Bell is planning on adding Cool Ranch taco shells to its portfolio!

Here's a chart of the BrandIndex values for Taco Bell and Doritos over the past few months:

And just for fun, here's our slideshow of other fast food items topped with Doritos!

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  • Taco Bell Doritos Locos Taco

    <strong>The Method:</strong> The one that started it all uses a proprietary taco shell-shaped Doritos chip as its wrapper, and comes swathed in a special cardboard holder to prevent Doritos powder from coating eaters' hands. <strong>The Verdict:</strong> Very positive reviews all around; most agreed that the tacos had been improved by the extra salt and savoriness of the Doritos shell. The biggest complaint was that there wasn't enough Doritos flavor -- it seemed as if the seasoning had been tamped down vis-a-vis the normal chips. To solve this problem, we tried adding more Doritos in the middle of the taco. It didn't help.

  • Cosi Signature Salad

    <strong>The Method:</strong> We tossed crumbled Doritos into Cosi's signature salad, which contains mixed greens, gorgonzola and cranberries. <strong>The Verdict:</strong> Pretty solid! The chips added some much needed saltiness and crunch to what is usually a sweet, mushy salad. On the other hand, the signature Doritos flavor didn't really stand up to the salad's vinaigrette and ingredients; almost any chip would have improved the salad. In the words of one taster, "Since there is blue cheese in the salad, it feels like the two are competing for attention."

  • Chipotle Burrito

    <strong>The Method:</strong> Since we were too bashful to ask our Chipotle assembly line wrapper to crumble the Doritos into the middle of the burrito, we ended up stuffing it ourselves ex post wrappo. <strong>The Verdict:</strong> Funny! But not good-tasting, sadly. One taster said that the pairing was "good texturally," but most agreed that the subtle, natural flavors of a Chipotle burrito clashed with the artificiality of Doritos.

  • Wendy's French Fries

    <strong>The Method:</strong> Grind the chips into a powder, then shake them up with the fries to coat them evenly. <strong>The Verdict:</strong> Possibly the worst of the pairings. One taster compared them to "dry cheese fries," while another noted that, "Ketchup does not go with Doritos." Blech!

  • McDonald's Big Mac

    <strong>The Method:</strong> Added whole Doritos on top of both the burger's beef patties. <strong>The Verdict:</strong> Bravo! Most tasters agreed that this was almost as good a match as Eddard and Catelyn Stark on "Game of Thrones." (Full disclosure: they did not use a "Song of Ice and Fire" analogy to convey their enthusiasm.) One said, "The creamy sauce complements the crunchy texture of the chips," which, another added, "makes it more satisfying, because usually it's one-dimensional."

  • McDonald's Chicken McNuggets

    <strong>The Method:</strong> We stuck Doritos into the McNuggets, as our photographer put it, "like shards of glass." <strong>The Verdict:</strong> These were divisive. Some tasters hated the combo, finding the McNugget flavor and texture overpowering. But others said that dipping the Doritos-adorned nuggets into barbecue sauce made for a revelatory melding of flavors.

  • Subway Spicy Italian Sub

    <strong>The Method:</strong> Lay whole chips right up in the middle of the sub. <strong>The Verdict:</strong> One of the better matches. One taster even called it "delicious," noting that salami and Doritos have mutually beneficial flavor profiles. Another taster, though, quipped that, "This does not taste discernibly different because normally when I eat a Subway sandwich I'm also stuffing Doritos in my face." (It's not clear that this was a criticism.)

  • Dunkin' Donuts Glazed Donuts

    <strong>The Method:</strong> Because we had three donuts, we decided to try a few things... we stuck them in as with the McNuggets, we stuffed them in the middle as with the Big Mac and we sprinkled their crumbs on top as with the Wendy's Fries. <strong>The Verdict:</strong> Another divisive dish. Though one taster praised the Doritos donuts for their "nice cheesecake taste," others picked up artificial, bitter flavors that they said ruined the meld. Everyone thought they LOOKED awesome though!

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Filed by Joe Satran  |