NEW YORK — Rise and shine. It's time for breakfast soda.
Taco Bell said Friday that it's adding Mtn Dew A.M – a mix of Mountain Dew soda and Tropicana orange juice – to its breakfast menu, which was rolled out earlier this year at select locations. Separately, the industry tracker Beverage Digest said that PepsiCo Inc. next year plans to introduce a drink made with juice, Mountain Dew Kickstart.
Mtn Dew A.M. is mixed in restaurants and only available at Taco Bell. Kickstart would be a packaged drink sold by PepsiCo.
John Sicher, publisher of Beverage Digest, noted that giving consumers drink options for the morning is a way for companies to boost their performance. Overall, per capita soda consumption has been on the decline since hitting its peak in 1998.
Mountain Dew Kickstart would also be a way for PepsiCo to feed off the popularity of energy drinks, which saw sales volume grow by nearly 17 percent last year. Each of the top three brands – Monster, Red Bull and Rockstar – saw double-digit gains, according to Beverage Digest.
A representative for Taco Bell wasn't immediately available to provide details on the orange juice-to-soda ratio in Mtn Dew A.M., or how widely it was available before earning a permanent spot on the breakfast menu. A PepsiCo spokesman declined to comment about Kickstart.
Taco Bell, which is owned by Louisville, Ky.-based Yum Brands Inc., announced the addition in conjunction with its new A.M. Crunchwrap, which combines scrambled eggs, cheese, a hash brown and bacon or sausage in a single tortilla. It has 680 calories with bacon, or 730 calories with sausage. A 16-ounce cup of Mtn Dew A.M. has 160 calories.
The Mexican-style chain introduced breakfast – which it refers to as "FirstMeal" – at about 800 restaurants in 14 states earlier this year. The chain plans to take the menu national by 2014 if the test goes well.
Although Taco Bell is looking to expand by offering higher-end options such as its new Cantina Bell menu, it's also finding success by appealing to younger men who crave junk food. In the U.S. sales at Taco Bell restaurants open at least a year experienced double-digit growth during the second quarter.
Yum Brands attributed the boost to its new tacos featuring shells made out of Nacho Cheese 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."
<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!