Taco Bell sauce-flavored chips are about to be a thing

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Credit: Taco Bell

Taco Bell is bringing its brand into the chips aisle with a trio of tortilla chips essentially made to remind fans that they like Taco Bell.

Hitting grocery and convenience stores in May, the chips pit Taco Bell against product partner Frito-Lay. Of course, PepsiCo's Frito-Lay is the biggest chip marketer by a wide margin, and Taco Bell also used to be owned by PepsiCo, but we digress.

This is what counts as innovation in the food sector these days, and it comes on the heels of Taco Bell's biggest launch ever, Nacho Fries, which are seasoned fries served with a nacho cheese sauce.

It isn't a total surprise that Taco Bell would play in the tortilla chip space. It's had a major hit with Doritos Locos tacos, made with taco shells based on Frito-Lay's Doritos, since 2012. And it already sells plenty of tortilla chips at its restaurants. (In 2013, Frito-Lay and Taco Bell even teamed up for a limited-time run of bagged Doritos Locos Tacos tortilla chips.) It's also a useful form of marketing for the Yum Brands chain, which is the nation's fourth-largest U.S. restaurant chain behind McDonald's, Starbucks and Subway.

Taco Bell tortilla chips will come in two flavors based on its fire and mild sauce packets, as well as "classic." Package designs mimic those tiny sauce packets in the restaurant.

"This launch of our first line of sauce packet-inspired chips gives our fans a new way to access a taste of Taco Bell," Chief Brand Officer Marisa Thalberg said in a statement.

A small sampling of small bags sent to Ad Age suggests fire and mild flavors taste pretty much like they could come from any nacho chip brand, with fire being redder in color and spicier than the mild variety. Taco Bell describes the fire flavor as containing "hints of jalapeño, chili peppers and paprika" while mild includes "hints of three chili peppers and cumin." The classic, this tester's seasoned palate says, is just a salty tortilla chip, which matches Taco Bell's description: "salted and crispy."

Rather than work with Frito-Lay, as it has on the Doritos Locos shells, Taco Bell's new chips are being made by a company called Sugar Foods Corp. Taco Bell says it has "developed many successful products working with Frito-Lay, like the Doritos Locos Taco and Beefy Crunch Burrito." But as far as the new chips go, "this was not a collaboration. This was our brand and we wanted to create tortilla chips that stand out as uniquely Taco Bell, in both their sauce packet flavors and packaging."

Taco Bell didn't give pricing details, other than saying the new chips offer the value its brand is known for, with final pricing being set by retailers. Fire and mild will come in 1-ounce, 3.5-ounce and 11-ounce bags, and classic will be available in 1-ounce, 3.5-ounce and 13-ounce bags.

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