Wednesday, April 20, 2011

TBG Eats: The NEW Pacific Shrimp Burrito AND Cheesy Double Decker Taco from Taco Bell

Current Weight: 162.0 lbs.

Girl: "They changed 'Malibu Stacy'!"

Other Girl: "She is better than ever!"

Lisa Simpson: "Wait! Don't be fooled! She's just a regular 'Malibu Stacy' with a stupid cheap hat! She still embodies ALL the awful stereotypes she did before!"

Smithers: "But, she's got a new hat!"

Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy (The Simpsons, Originally aired February 17, 1994).

As I've mentioned more than once in this space; I have a degree in marketing from San Diego State University. My career in marketing, however, was the rough equivalent of just one calendar year. Ironically, most of that work came while I was still an undergraduate.

January 1997 – May 1997 -- For a marketing research class, my five-person group was tasked with preparing a critical analysis on a new phenomenon called "online banking". We worked with a local Wells Fargo bank, interviewed a few corporate suits and prepared/administered customer surveys that measured awareness, acceptance and/or resistance throughout a representative public cross-sample.

In hindsight, the one-hour oral presentation of our findings inadvertently served as the perfect time capsule. We included quotes from a San Diego bank executive who called the internet -- not just online banking, but the ENTIRE internet -- a "fad" that would pass before anyone in our group graduated. Also cited were several independent surveys that showed a 90% favorability rating from customers towards the banking industry. It's possible only Puff Daddy was more inexplicably beloved in 1997.

June 1997 – August 1997 -- During the summer, I took another single project-based class. This time, my group was paired with a small local business and tasked with creating its marketing plan. At the end of the 10-week session, our group made a formal pitch to the owner of
Fleur De Tea (nope, not another Simpsons reference...that was the actual name of the loose-leaf tea shoppe we were assigned). Our presentation was flawless. As a group, we were committed to providing our client with a quality, credible product. We met daily -- including weekends -- and pulled several all-nighters. The only person on earth more dedicated than us that summer? It's a tie for first.

August 1997 – December 1997 -- My last semester in college included an advanced advertising course in which I directed the entire class in a series of marketing and ad promotions. We conceived ad copy for a local car dealership and wrote two commercials that aired on a San Diego radio station. We promoted a men's and women's college basketball doubleheader -- the first official sporting events at the newly-opened on-campus Cox Arena. And, we put together almost all of the local promotion for a
late October taping of WCW Monday Nitro at SDSU. And, yes, I do still include this work on my resume -- which I'm occasionally required to submit as part of defense contract proposal packages at my current job. I'll put my 1997 up against Sean Combs' 1997 anytime.

14(!) years later, Taco Bell has introduced a pair of "new" menu items that remind me of the "Malibu Stacy" approach to marketing.

The first is the Pacific Shrimp Burrito. TB describes it as "a warm, soft flour tortilla filled with six succulent shrimp, marinated in spices, crisp shredded lettuce, creamy avocado ranch, fiesta salsa, a three-cheese blend and crispy red tortilla strips." Last year, TB debuted the
Pacific Shrimp Taco. The description on their website read:

"A warm, soft flour tortilla filled with six succulent shrimp marinated in a mix of spices, then topped with crisp shredded lettuce, fiesta salsa, and avocado ranch sauce."

For those of you who've ever wondered, the difference between burritos and tacos is apparently a three-cheese blend and crispy red tortilla strips. And, all kidding aside, why is Taco Bell playing up the number of shrimp in the Pacific Shrimp Burrito? By the Americanized Mexican food standards that the chain has solidly established over the decades, shouldn't burritos be bigger than tacos? Six shrimp in a taco seems about right. Six shrimp in a burrito seems a little short.

I actually ordered the Pacific Shrimp Burrito with a Pacific Shrimp Taco and, honestly, couldn't tell the difference. The cheese in the burrito was sparse and overwhelmed by a river of avocado ranch sauce. The tortilla strips provided some nice texture, but not enough to differentiate from the taco -- which scored a 3 out of 5 on my "TBG Eats" scale last year. The shrimp is still nicely seasoned and all the flavors still don't quite come together.

Taco Bell has also (temporarily) added an 89-cent Cheesy Double Decker Taco to their "Why Pay More?" value menu. TB's Double Decker Tacos have been around for more than 15 years. But, now a hearty smear of nacho cheese sauce is added to the refried bean spread on the soft tortilla before it's wrapped around a regular crispy taco. As a longtime fan of the original Double Decker Taco, the nacho cheese sauce probably adds another half-point in scoring on taste. It's ooey. It's gooey. And, if you've had it once... Great value here, though, as two of these are surprisingly filling.

Better than ever? No.

But, they've got a new hat.

Grade (Pacific Shrimp Burrito): 3 (out of 5) Calories: 450 Fat: 22g

Grade (Cheesy Double Decker Taco): 4 (out of 5) Calories: 350 Fat: 15g


Other Joe said...

As big a Taco Bell fan I am, I still can't bring myself to order something on their menu that has shrimp in it. Fast food seafood just seems wrong.

Re: Double Decker Tacos - when I was in 11th grade I had braces put on, and they gave me this big long list of foods I couldn't eat. While my mom was asking "practical" questions such as how to clean them and will they cut my lips, my one contribution to the discussion was "I see tacos are on this list, but Taco Bell has a hard taco shell that's surrounded by a layer of refried beans and a soft shell. If I order this at the restaurant drive through and it softens up on the way home, is that ok to eat?" The answer was a pleasing "YES"

And I'd love your thoughts on this, Cam:

Aaron C. said...

Yeah, I can understand the resistance to Taco Bell shrimp. They've been so easily identified by their 88% beef/12% "signature recipe" filling for so long that's hard to take them seriously (on either a health OR taste issue). I feel the same way about their "steak" products.

And, I saw the Doritos taco shell link...I predict catastrophic failure. There's a reason no one of college age uses Doritos to make microwave nachos (two processed American cheese slices, two fist-fulls of chips on a paper plate).