Between 2008 and 2012, over 9,000 snack products were launched in the United States. Somewhere along the way -perhaps after the croissant and donut hybrid better known as the cronut became the first dessert to go viral -popular fast-food chains have been obsessed with creating bizarre food concoctions. The mashup market, or Franken-food concept, is straightforward: one type of food might taste good, but two types of foods combined to create a third, hybridized food is the type of marketing that takes social media by storm. In other words, x + y = mega-sales.
Whether it tastes good or not, a freaky food item is bound to spread across Twitter and Facebook, and that’s the type of buzz publicity-starved fast-food chains want, especially as they seek to make a splash in the highly-sought after millennial market. Every fast-food chain seems to be contributing to the mashup trend. Dunkin’ Donuts now features a Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich, a gargantuan, heart attack-inspiring concoction that features bacon and eggs wedged between two greasy glazed donuts; IHOP does its part to contribute to the obesity epidemic by layering cheesecake between tire-size pancakes; and Pizza Hut Middle East recently made headlines with cream-cheese cone crust pizzas and Kit-Kat-stuffed breadsticks. Love them or hate them, here are 8 of the strangest fast-food mashups.
8 Pizza Cake
Pizza Cake isn’t on the market yet, but in April it won Boston Pizza’s “Pizza Game Changers” campaign, a contest that allows customers to vote for their favorite of the chain’s eight new innovative pizza products. Other products in the Pizza Game Changer campaign include pizza mints, ergonomically designed cheese clippers, and a gas powered pizza cutter.
'The Pizza Game Changers campaign is really about celebrating innovation in our pizza over the last 50 years," says Boston Pizza spokesperson Perry Schwartz. "As part of bringing items like the Pizzaburger, Taco Pizza, Calzono and Sriracha Chicken Pizza to market, we’re also taking a humorous look at some other potential innovations that we can bring to market and involving the Boston Pizza Guest in that process."
The Canadian pizza chain will bring the six-layer Pizza Cake to market this summer. The specialty pizza seems perfectly tailored for birthdays and bar mitzvahs, not to mention hipster weddings. The Pizza Cake will be available at Boston Pizza’s 350 Canadian chains. Pizza lovers in the U.S. will be forced to stack six pizzas on top of one another to get something of the Pizza Cake effect.
7 The Bisnut
In an attempt to capitalize on the “cronut craze,” Carl’s Jr., a restaurant-chain in the Western and Southwestern U.S., is currently testing the Bisnut in California. The biscuit-meets-donut product is covered with either vanilla or chocolate icing and topped with sprinkles. The Bisnut is billed as a “made from scratch baked treat.” It is shaped like a regular donut, but made from biscuit batter that is denser than traditional donut dough. The Bisnut sells for $0.99. Word is still out on whether the Bisnut is a tasty breakfast treat or just a shameless bid to cash in on the mashup madness.
6 Doritos Loaded
On July 2nd, 7-Eleven began rolling out Doritos Loaded. The $1.99 four-pack snack combines melted American, Romano and cheddar cheese with a Doritos breading and a secret ingredient. On social media, the gooey snacks have already been dubbed “inside out nachos.” According to The Huffington Post, Loaded Doritos are being targeted at millennials. However, so far reviews of the snack have been mixed; it appears not every Doritos obsessive looking for a late-night snack wants cheese inside their chips. Doritos Loaded is 7-Eleven’s biggest snack rollout ever.
5 Chicken Waffle Tenders
The combination of chicken and waffles is a staple in the American south, but typically the items are served separately. Chains like Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles specialize in the dish, and over the past few years the combination has become popular on food truck menus. In 2013, Popeye’s fused the two dishes and rolled out a limited time offer: Chicken Waffle Tenders. White chicken meat is marinated and battered in a waffle coating, and then deep-fried. The dish comes with honey maple dipping sauce. Popeye’s said Chicken Waffle Tenders is its most successful limited time offer to date, and the Louisiana-based food chain is planning to reprise the dish in August.
4 Bacon Shake
In 2009, The Stranger, an alternative weekly newspaper in Seattle, published an articled entitled, "The End of Baconmania: Our Long Coronary Nightmare Is Almost Over,” predicting that bacon’s popularity was coming to an end. Well, fat chance. Bacon is as popular as ever and incorporated into all manner of foods, from bacon ice cream and bacon-infused vodka to chocolate-dipped bacon and bacon doughnuts. In 2012, Jack in the Box began offering the Bacon Milkshake, a hybrid of two All-American favorites. Jack in the Box no longer sells the bacon shake, but Sonic, a 1950s-style Drive-Thru restaurant chain, jumped on the bacon bandwagon and now offers a Peanut Butter and Bacon Shake. In 2013, NASCAR might have taken the bacon craze too far when it sold bacon and beer milkshakes at the Texas Motor Speedway.
3 Waffle Taco
Taco Bell is often credited with starting the quirky food trend. In March 2014, the fast-food chain introduced the world to the Waffle Taco. The Waffle Taco is a taco-shaped waffle shell stuffed with eggs and either sausage or bacon and served with syrup. There is nothing strange about the taste –it’s just like eating a traditional waffle, egg, and meat breakfast –but the delivery system is unusual; before the waffle-designed vessel, you couldn’t eat a lumberjack-style breakfast with one hand as you commute to work in the morning. Taco Bell President Brian Niccol had this to say about the Waffle Taco launch: "I'd rather have people have an opinion than no opinion. I don't want to be in the land of same-ness. I'd rather be in the land of, you either love it, or you can tell me why you don't love it. What I don't want is bland."
2 Doritos Locos Tacos
Launched in 2012, Doritos Locos Tacos are like normal tacos but the shells are made of Doritos. The mashup is the most successful product launch in Taco Bell history, selling over 100 million units in the first 10 weeks and over a billion in the first year. According to The Atlantic, it took the pairing of Taco Bell and Frito-Lay two years and roughly 40 prototypes to perfect the Dorito tortilla. Due to the success of Doritos Locos Tacos, numerous fast-food competitors have raided the chips aisle in search of inspiration. Subway now features an enchilada sandwich made from Fritos, and Taco John’s offers a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Burrito; however, neither mashup has been as successful as Doritos Locos Tacos. In fact, the popular taco chain recently released a limited time flavor in its DLT line: Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch.
1 The Cronut
The cronut is the granddaddy of the quirky food hybrid trend. It was the shot heard around the world in the age of portmanteau marketing. Invented and trademarked by Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City, the croissant-donut pastry took the world by storm in 2013. Time magazine named it one of the “25 Best Inventions of the Year.” The cronut is made from pastry dough that’s been sheeted, laminated, proofed and fried like a donut in grape seed oil; it’s then filled with a Tahitian vanilla cream and sprinkled with rose sugar. Cronuts sold for $5, and the daily stock of 200 sold out within minutes each morning. The glazed goodies were so coveted that the bakery implemented a six-cronut limit; Internet buzz and limited production led to black market scalpers selling cronuts for upwards of $100.