Taco Bell dangles dollar deals to lure customers tempted by meat substitutes

'Food they not only want, but can afford'

Taco Bell is offering some meaty deals in 2020 to counter fast-food competitors catering to U.S. hunger for meat substitutes.

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The taco chain, which is a subsidiary of Yum! Brands Inc., will kick off next year with 21 dollar-menu items and bring back previous hits such as $1 Double Stacked Tacos. Starting the day after Christmas, it's offering a $5 Chalupa Box.

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“It’s more important than ever before that we give fans the craveable food they not only want, but can afford," said Melissa Friebe, Taco Bell's senior vice president for brand marketing. “Committing to the $1 is a priority for us.”

Taco Bell, which opened its first restaurant in southern California in 1962 with six core items priced at 19 cents each, has prioritized affordability in the decades since.

Its latest initiative comes as competitors delve into the plant-based food industry, which has pulled in $4.5 billion in sales, a new report from the Plant Based Foods Association and data firm SPINS found.

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“Restaurants are really trying to tap into some of the growing consumer movement around shifting some of their diet or (adopting a) plant-based diet,” said Aaron Adalja, assistant professor of food and beverage management at Cornell University.

Growing U.S. demand for meat substitutes drove sales 23 percent higher, to $760 million, in 2018. That fueled the rise of companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods and drew in traditional fast-food restaurants such as Burger King and McDonald's.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.