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Dairy Checkoff Supports Development of New Taco Bell Menu Items

Recently, fast food company Taco Bell unveiled two brand new products thanks to checkoff dollars from the dairy industry.

The new products, a Grilled Cheese Burrito and a Pineapple Whip Freeze beverage, were the result of brainstorming how to give dairy a more prominent position on Taco Bell’s menu, says Mike Ciresi, a Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) senior dairy scientist who works at Taco Bell’s headquarters in Irvine, California.

Development of the Grilled Cheese Burrito had the goal of putting a Taco Bell spin on a traditional comfort food. “Grilled cheese is a classic that everyone knows and loves,” Ciresi said. “What makes it so special is not only does it have classic Taco Bell fillings on the inside, it features a flavorful layer of indulgence on the outside that gives you a delicious, gooey, grilled cheese experience.”

The Pineapple Whip, released on May 21, is the chain’s first beverage to contain dairy since Taco Bell and DMI formed a partnership in 2012.

“We knew that dairy was a huge menu gap on Taco Bell’s beverage menu,” Ciresi says. “They didn’t have any beverages with dairy so through some insights and some learnings with consumers we knew that was definitely an opportunity.”

Delivering a dairy-based beverage would be challenging to execute in Taco Bell locations because of the limited resources and equipment to handle dairy beverages in stores. In order to solve this issue, DMI’s Global Innovation Partnerships science team worked to create a dairy-based, shelf-stable creamer that consists of real cream and met Taco Bell’s product requirements.

“Taco Bell has always wanted an indulgent beverage to fill a menu gap, but the setup of its restaurants made it challenging,” Ciresi said. “That caused us to think differently because we knew we could make a delicious dairy beverage that didn’t need refrigeration. We were convinced there was a way to do it and our work with the Midwest Dairy Center proved that it was possible.”

The Pineapple Whip Freeze has exceeded the chain’s expectations. It is available for a limited time or until supplies run out.

Ciresi said these projects show the benefit of having dairy scientists on site at a major chain’s headquarters. “We started the partnership in 2012 and it’s been a really great partnership,” he says. “A lot of successes over the years, a lot of new product launches.”

Collectively, checkoff partnerships have grown U.S. dairy sales by 2.2 billion milk equivalent pounds and averaged 3 percent growth since their creation.