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January 31, 2013

Doritos Maker Looks To Cash In on Taco Bell Partnership: Frito-Lay Ready to Further Relationship with Taco Bell-Flavored Chips as Chain Restaurant Scores Big with Doritos-Flavored Taco Shells

Frito-Lay wants a bite of Taco Bell's popular Doritos Locos Tacos. The snack food giant plans to roll out its Doritos in a "Taco Bell" flavor as a limited-time product this spring, aiming to capitalize on the popularity of the Doritos-flavored tacos introduced by the fast-food chain last year.

Frito-Lay says it will be the first time since the 1990s since it has offered Doritos branded with the logo of a national restaurant chain. Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos has been one of the biggest new menu items in recent times, with Taco Bell selling more than 300 million of the tacos with flavored shells since their introduction in March, an AP news release reports.

They were such a hit that Taco Bell postponed a follow-up Cool Ranch flavor to early this year to make sure there was enough capacity to make the shells. The chain also plans to introduce a taco in "Flamas" flavor, a Doritos variety available only in select regions of the country, reports the news release by AP writer Candice Choi.

The offerings reflect the unique bonds between Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell, and PepsiCo, which owns Frito-Lay.

The idea for the Doritos Locos Tacos, for example, came about in early 2010 when Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed visited Frito-Lay executives to discuss how to celebrate the chain's upcoming 50th anniversary in 2012. Since Frito-Lay didn't have a production line for the flavored shells at the time, the Doritos seasoning was sprayed onto regular taco shells so executives could get of sense of how they'd taste. Creed said he knew right away it would be a hit.

"You know you've got a big idea when you don't have to explain it," said Creed, who has been with the restaurant chains since they were owned by PepsiCo. Creed noted that the mutual trust between the companies meant the project was based on "a handshake" in the early days.

Doritos Locos Tacos now account for about a quarter of all taco sales at Taco Bell, according to Creed. Without giving details, Frito-Lay North America chief marketing officer Ann Mukherjee said in a separate interview that Doritos Locos Tacos have also boosted sales volume for Frito-Lay, which supplies taco shells for Taco Bell.

The partnership is likely to continue paying off for both companies, with Creed saying Taco Bell plans to keep looking for new Doritos flavors for its tacos. The enduring relationship between PepsiCo and Yum was even captured in an exchange on Twitter last fall when Pepsi tried to engage customers on Twitter by asking them to fill in the blank: "After school snack: Pepsi and ______."

Taco Bell responded with the suggestion, "Taco Bell." Pepsi shot back with, "There's no better answer. (hash)truth."

The exchange was mocked by the website BuzzFeed as "The Saddest Moment in Twitter History," but it also highlights the unusual ties between the two companies.

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