Burger King, the restaurant chain backed by 3G Capital and Warren Buffett, will begin selling deep-fried sticks of macaroni and cheese encrusted in Cheetos-flavored breading, part of a trend toward blending fast food with well-known snack brands.
The new product, called Mac ‘n Cheetos, emerged from a partnership with PepsiCo Inc.’s Frito-Lay, the snack empire that owns Cheetos, Doritos, Ruffles and other chips. Frito-Lay is based in Plano. The move mimics the strategy of Yum Brands Inc.’s Taco Bell, which introduced a taco with a Doritos shell in 2012. That item, called Doritos Locos Tacos, helped turn around sales at the then-struggling chain and offshoots followed: Cool Ranch, Nacho Cheese and Fiery Doritos.
Mac ‘n Cheetos will be sold for about eight weeks or until supplies run out, said Burger King, which is part of Restaurant Brands International Inc. The $2.49 five-pack of portable macaroni-and-cheese bites are similar to mozzarella sticks. The item, which has 310 calories, has already appeared at some Burger King restaurants in a trial phase.
“We’re partnering up with one of Americans’ favorite brands,” Alex Macedo, president of North America at Burger King, said in an interview. “It’s quite unique.”
Facing a fiercely competitive fast-food market, restaurant chains are under pressure to get more creative with their menus. Burger King previously started selling grilled Oscar Mayer hot dogs earlier this year, along with an Egg-normous burrito and Chicken Fries Rings. Other chains, including McDonald’s Corp., are relying more heavily on discounts, such as a two-for-$5 deal.
The Mac ‘n Cheetos debut also reflects the increasingly tangled web of fast-food alliances. Though PepsiCo owns Cheetos, Burger King’s U.S. restaurants sell beverages from Coca-Cola Co., another company backed by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
However, some of Burger King’s international locations sell Pepsi drinks, and domestic ones offer PepsiCo’s Quaker oatmeal. Yum and PepsiCo, meanwhile, used to be part of the same company, and partnerships between the two are more common.
The new item shouldn’t be seen as a sign that Burger King is switching to Pepsi in the United States, Macedo said.
“It’s not a plan for us to migrate to Pepsi,” he said. “Our relationship with Coke is as good as it is with PepsiCo.”
The two companies started working together about a year ago to create the mac-and-cheese item. It’s the first time the Cheetos brand has been extended beyond chips into other food, and there may be more hybrids coming.
“We’re working on a few other menu items,” Macedo said. “There’s room for us to do more together in the future.”