KANSAS CITY — Solving such dining dilemmas as “croissant or donut?” and “burger or taco?” is a wave of new hybrid products popping up in fast-food chains.
From the Cronut to the Waffle Taco, mashups are having a moment on menus, according to several market research firms. Innova Market Insights, Duiven, The Netherlands, identified hybrid innovation as a top food trend of 2014.
“New product development is obviously pushing boundaries with entirely new concepts globally,” said Joanna Clifton, a market analyst with Innova Market Insights, Duiven, The Netherlands, during the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition held June 21-24 in New Orleans. “Well-known brands are venturing into previously un-imagined categories, and it’s bringing new flavors, new textures, new delivery methods.”
Mashups offer a potential solution for consumers who want two options in one, Innova said. Zola Coconut Water Espresso, for example, combines the benefits of hydration and energizing caffeine. Other category crossovers include Lipton strawberry cupcake-flavored green tea and Blue Diamond coffee-flavored almonds. More well-known brands are expected to venture into previously untapped categories, according to Innova.
On restaurant menus, hybrids are rising as limited-time items. Such odd couplings draw interest and generate trial, according to Technomic, Inc., Chicago.
“They are really meant to generate buzz, drive some P.R., certainly to create traffic, and also to a certain extent, to give the consumer some bragging rights in terms of being the first one on the block to try it,” said Nancy Kruse, president of The Kruse Co., Atlanta, during a presentation at Technomic’s Restaurants Trends & Directions Conference, held June 18 in Chicago.
The croissant-donut mashup designed by New York bakery owner Dominique Ansel has inspired a spate of knockoffs known as Doughssants, Fauxnuts, Cray-nuts and Kronut Krullers.
The Waffle Taco, the centerpiece of Taco Bell’s breakfast launch, has drawn “enormously positive press,” though the item is not the chain’s best-seller on the morning menu, Ms. Kruse said.
In beverages, restaurant operators are serving shakes made with beer or wine. For its Can-Crafted Cocktails line, Red Robin blends beer with liquor and fruit juice.
Recently, several top fast-food chains have rolled out or tested hybrid products, including a taco burger, a quesadilla burrito and more donut mashups.