There are a few fast-food menu items that define entire brands. McDonald’s has the Big Mac, Burger King has its Whopper … and Taco Bell? Well, the argument can be made that the Crunchwrap deserves such a designation.
But it took more than a dozen years for this handheld meal to go from an abstract idea to a favorite on menus across the country.
A rigorous process
Before any new menu item can get the green light at Taco Bell (or any other major restaurant chain, for that matter), it must go through tons of research and development. In the case of the Crunchwrap, there were engineers, marketers, taste testers, and even psychologists involved.
Let’s take a quick look at the process that this and other new items must complete before ending up on a menu board.
- Between 4,000 and 5,000 new concepts are introduced each year
- Only a few dozen of them make it to the testing phase
- Roughly 8 to 12 of those ideas eventually become menu items
A team of 12 chef scientists and their support staff work at the Innovation Kitchen in California where all of this important work gets done.
Choosing the winners
Taco Bell looks at a few key criteria in determining which foods will get a chance to reach your mouth.
First, it must serve a specific need … and the Crunchwrap can be eaten with one hand.
Second, it needs to be sustainable … and the Crunchwrap uses ingredients common in other items.
Finally, it has to be distinctive … and the Crunchwrap provides a new form to familiar flavors.
If a product meets all of these benchmarks, it advances to a limited run in test markets. Most fail, making them only short-lived products. But the Crunchwrap became an icon.