Taco Bell's latest mantra: Protein matters.
It matters so much, apparently, to Taco Bell customers that the Mexican fast-food chain late Thursday announced that it's overhauling its entire Cantina platform and replacing it with bowls and burritos packed with at least 20 grams of protein that weigh in at 500 or fewer calories.
"People are not looking for diet food," said President Brian Niccol, in a conference call with reporters. "They want food that gives them energy."
For consumers, the changes in the new so-called "Cantina Power Menu" will be noticeable. The Cantina Power Bowls will drop the corn salsa and the creamy cilantro dressing and replace it with a double portion of chicken or steak, reduced-fat sour cream, real cheddar cheese and an avocado ranch sauce. The Power Burritos will drop the rice and beans and replace them with reduced-fat sour cream and cheddar cheese.
Protein has become top-of-mind for many consumers. In a recent report from NPD Group, the research specialist, 42% of Millennials — and more than half of all adults — said it is somewhat or very important to add more protein to their diets. Consumers cite many reasons for adding protein to their diets; some of the top reasons are helping to maintain energy levels, supporting overall health, improving muscle tone and feeling satisfied by a meal or snack.
The new Taco Bell platform launches nationally on July 17. The move comes after a test one year ago in Dayton, Ohio, where the Power Platform was preferred to the previous Cantina offerings. The steak Power Bowl is $5.19 and chicken is $4.99. The Cantina Power Burrito with steak is $3.99 and $3.79 for chicken.
There are 29 grams of protein in the Power burrito and 28 grams in the bowl.
Taco Bell next month will test, in Omaha, a breakfast protein boost with a Power Breakfast Menu that includes a Steak Bowl, Steak Burrito and Three Happy Cows-brand Greek Yogurt with a granola topping. The Greek yogurt will have 17 grams of protein.
"Consumers are saying they want more protein at breakfast," says Niccol. "We want to see how we can take more protein across all day parts."