It's been eight long years since the Chinese have been able to indulge their Cheesy Gordita Crunch cravings, but after the darkest night comes the dawn. In the coming months, Taco Bell will return to China.
Taco Bell announced it will head back to Asia this December or early next year to give Chinese consumers the bold south-of-the-border flavors they've been missing since Taco Bell's first foray in the country went bust.
And to win over the local market, they'll be slinging nacho cheese sauce like crazy.
"While preparing for the launch in China, we spent a lot of time learning the local culture and food customs to help us customize the menu to meet local tastes while still staying true to our core," Shivram Vaideeswaran, the Global Marketing and Innovation Director at Taco Bell, told MUNCHIES. "You'll still see our classics like crunchy tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and nachos, but we need to heat things up a bit to stay relevant."
Vaideeswaran means "heat things up" literally. In market testing, Taco Bell found that Chinese consumers prefer hot food and had unfavorable views on items that were served cold. Taco Bell in America is often lukewarm, topped with shredded, un-melted cheese. In China, the 1 AM go-tos will be getting hit with a slather of queso to warm up the other ingredients.
"Since Taco Bell is all about craveable textures and tastes—cool sour cream, crispy corn shells, and warm seasoned beef—we didn't want to polarize folks when they bit into a taco and there were a ton of cold ingredients," Vaideeswaran wrote. "Nacho cheese sauce was an awesome bridge because it kept the products hot while adding in a new flavor that is uniquely Taco Bell."
Taco Bell will still be distinctly Taco Bell, though, so your dreams of mapo tofu burritos will have to wait. "We didn't want to go too far where we localize too much and it starts to taste like Chinese food, because you can get excellent local flavors on every corner," Vaideeswaran told MUNCHIES.
Taco Bell's parent company, Yum! Brands, already has hits in China with KFC and Pizza Hut. Yum!, which is about to split itself in two to distinguish its Chinese holdings, is hoping the rest of the world loves the Bell as much as Americans do. The company is aiming to raise Taco Bell sales from $9 billion to $15 billion in sales worldwide by 2022, according to Bloomberg. Americans are already doing their part—roughly half of Americans hit up Taco Bell on a monthly basis. But in China, it's nacho cheese sauce that will serve as the magic eight ball.
"Nacho cheese sauce is our liquid gold, and definitely makes everything better," Vaideeswaran said.