Food & Drink

Taco-flavored pasta appeals to teen palates

In the fast-food industry, “bowl-based meals” are all the rage.

When Taco Bell began its bowl blitz in 2002, the company's executives launched a $20 million ad campaign based on extensive consumer research, according to Restaurant Business. Company executives revealed consumer research showed 84 percent of consumers prefer to eat with utensils rather than their hands, and 93 percent eat out of bowls at least once a week.

Taco Pasta Bowls combine two ethnic-inspired flavors that teens enjoy: Italian and Mexican. But the end result is an all-American dish, a playful variation of macaroni and cheese with a little extra fiber, thanks to the chili beans.

Savvy marketers say the way to get teens to try new things is to combine a familiar flavor with a new, unexpected flavor. The potential for experimentation is limitless. Change the choice of bean, meat or cheese, and you have a slightly different bowl.

Using chili powder, garlic powder and cumin instead of a commercial taco seasoning mix is a significant savings in sodium. Using no-salt-added tomatoes also keeps the sodium at a more moderate level.