Taco Bell tests Sriracha-flavored items

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Want to take a run for the border but wind up in Bangkok?

Taco Bell is testing a new menu that promises just that, looking to tap into the cult following for the red Thai hot sauce known as Sriracha.

The Mexican-themed chain said the menu is being tested at more than 70 restaurants in the Kansas City area. The selections appear to be menu standards like nachos and tacos, except with the hot sauce commonly used in Thai cuisine mixed in.

The test is the latest sign that Americans are embracing spicier flavors, with Subway also rolling out a sandwich with the red, chile-garlic-flavored sauce last year.

Taco Bell, which is owned by Yum Brands Inc., has been on a strong run since rolling out its Dorito-flavored tacos in 2012. Since then, it has looked to build on the success with a variety of new offerings, including snacks intended to draw customers during slower hours.

This year, it also launched a national breakfast menu that includes a “waffle taco” and is testing a “biscuit taco” as well.

It’s not clear whether Taco Bell will be able to sustain the momentum. In the latest quarter, sales rose 3 percent at established U.S. locations. But executives said that increase was the result of the breakfast launch, with the rest of day seeing declines at a time when traditional fast-food chains including McDonald’s are struggling to boost sales.

Despite Taco Bell’s Sriracha test, the chain’s breakfast menu shows some skepticism that Americans want new flavors in the mornings. Aside from shapes reminiscent of Mexican food, the ingredients are mostly straightforward breakfast staples like eggs, bacon and sausage.

Amanda Clark, senior director of brand marketing at Taco Bell, said that’s because the company’s research showed people still prefer “classic” tastes in the morning. As such, she said Taco Bell’s twist on breakfast is more about value and the portability.

When asked if there are more plans for taco-shaped breakfast concoctions, Clark said, “I hope so. The world is our oyster.”

In the meantime, there is one breakfast item in test that strays from the traditional flavors: a biscuit taco with deep-fried chicken that’s coated in tortilla strips and served with a jalapeno and honey sauce.

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