The Beefy Crunch Burrito comes shrouded in a generic wrapper, as if Taco Bell isn’t sure it’s a keeper.
National fast-food chains continue innovating at breakneck speed, trying to keep pace with the competition and stabilize their market share — all the while being assaulted by new chains and much better stand-alones in key urban areas. Realizing that all their food is insipid and bland, in a country where consumers are increasingly craving hot peppers, and also realizing that their food is invariably so soft it could be eaten without aid of teeth, Taco Bell has decided to retro-engineer its newest product — the so-called Beefy Crunch Burrito.
The exterior of the Beefy Crunch Burrito, with a spork shown for size comparison.
The burrito isn’t gigantic, like the burritos you get at Chipotle, but it’s cheap as hell. I paid $1.39 for mine in New York, where everything tends to be more expensive. As is conventional, the burrito is rolled like a spliff in a flour tortilla. We performed a Caesarian section — using a spork instead of a scalpel — to see what was inside without injuring the burrito, and found yellow rice, ground beef, chopped raw onions, and cheese in enough abundance that one could make an entire meal.
As usual, the fillings are quite salty, too, leading you to reach again and again for that jumbo soda, but there the resemblance to the conventional burrito ends. For you see, the inside is dotted with Fritos corn chips. Which might sound weird for a national brand combination (Taco Bell and Frito-Lay?), but remember that PepsiCo, the parent of Frito-Lay, owned Taco Bell in the ’90s and still has a substantial piece of Yum! Brands, which currently owns Taco Bell.
Next: See what’s inside!
Inside the incision, you can see the deep-red Fritos, which provide crunch and heat.
The Fritos inside the Beefy Crunch Burrito are coated with a spice powder in which red pepper predominates, so that the chips not only provide the crunch they’re intended to produce, but also a mouth-searing hotness that you’d never expect at Taco Bell, even when you dump on a dozen packs of their “hot” sauce.
Of course, without the chips, the burrito would be as bland as a Whiz-covered Philly cheesesteak, mainly tasting of grease and salt. Why couldn’t Taco Bell just put a hot salsa inside, and deep-fry the burrito instead, as is often done in Colorado? Well, that’s the essence of retro-engineering: You take a product that’s inferior, and add more stuff to cover up the inferiority. In this case, the new product is far better than the original, but you better eat it fast before the interior chips become soggy.
Of course, the actual Beefy Crunch Burrito can’t quite live up to its poster picture …