From Burger King, which earlier gave us Chicken Fries, comes Mac ’n Cheetos, fried macaroni-and-cheese bites coated with that day-glo orange cheese-flavored powder that makes Cheetos addictive.
Served five to a box, Mac ’n Cheetos are priced at $2.49 for this summer-long LTO. Combo meals with Bk burgers will be offered. Larger serving sizes aren’t contemplated now, Burger King North America President Alex Macedo told BurgerBusiness.com in an interview, because the chain wanted this, like Chicken Fries, to be a portable snack.
Mac ‘n Cheetos are fried in-store using a dedicated fryer so that the cheese coating won’t migrate to other fried foods.
Macedo said Mac ‘n Cheetos is a continuation of a strategy the chain has followed for several years. “When we started turning the Burger King brand around we decided to focus on innovation and on fewer, more impactful launches of products that were very similar to our brand. So we’ve done products that are fun and extroverted and not afraid of a challenge.”
Marketing support begins Monday, June 27, through social and digital media only. Yes, expect to see Cheetos mascot Chester Cheetah in some marketing executions.
A Pepsico client for soft drinks, Burger King has worked with Pepsico subsidiary Frito-Lay over the years, so the snack-food company understands the burger chain’s interest in innovation, he said. “They presented us with this fun, delicious product idea and then we started working together to [bring it out]. I think it’s going to be talked about a lot and consumed a lot this summer,” said Macedo.
He added that he expects “a significant amount of sales will be add-on business. People will come in for Whopper meal and add the Mac’n Cheetos because it’s new.”
Marissa Solis, Frito-Lay VP- Foodservice Innovation, told BurgerBusiness.com, “We’ve got amazing brands with appeal across the market that everyone know about. So we felt it was time to get ‘outside the bag.’ We want to stretch our brands into new spaces.” This is the Cheetos brand’s first foray into restaurant menu items.
But Frito-Lay has worked with other QSR brands, of course. Several Taco Bell menu items—such as Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Tacos and Fiery Doritos Locos Tacos and Doritos Cheesy Gordita Crunch—are tie-ins with Frito-Lay’s Doritos brand.
That’s one reason why some of the media coverage given Mac ‘n Cheetos has been so curious. Jack in the Box introduced Cheesy Macaroni Bites back in 2008. Chains from Romano’s Macaroni Grill to Denny’s have done fried mac ‘n cheese appetizers. McDonald’s introduced Cheesy Macaroni Snacks in Australia last year. So Burger King’s product is not wholly new or unusual. But you wouldn’t know that from some of the coverage the product immediately received.
Wrote TheStreet, “The weird experiments at Burger King seem to know no bounds.” That’s cute and sensationalist and all, but you can buy frozen mac ‘n cheese bites as any grocery store. This isn’t weird science. The Motley Fool claims that Mac ‘n Cheetos is “not all that different from the fried mac and cheese that appears on many casual sit-down restaurant menus,” but it proceeds to say that it “seems like a publicity stunt.” Which is it?
Macedo said Mac ‘n Cheetos will be Burger King’s only new-product launch for the summer. The current burger marketplace is a difficult place to build sales, as recent quarterly reports attest (Sonic reports today), so there’s a lot riding on this product for Burger King.
Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s has had its share of gimmicky menu products, including, most recently, the Midnight Moonshine Burger. But the sibling chains also have been moving to improve the quality of core protein offerings. In 2014 Carl’s Jr. added an all-natural grass-fed beef burger (Hardee’s followed suit last year), and followed with all-natural charbroiled turkey burgers in 2015.
Now the chains are adding an all-natural chicken breast fillet to selected menu items. Minimally processed with no artificial additives or preservatives, the new chicken will be available on all of the two chains’ charbroiled chicken sandwiches. Both will use it on the Charbroiled Chicken Club and Charbroiled BBQ Chicken sandwiches, and Carl’s Jr. also will use it for its Charbroiled Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich. No price increases follow from the chicken substitution.