Taco Bell is beefing up its dining options with a new, protein-heavy menu.
The Mexican food chain, based in Irvine, said the Cantina Power Menu, available nationwide beginning July 17, will consist of bowls and burritos loaded with a double dose of chicken or steak -- while still weighing in at 500 calories or fewer. Cantina Power dishes will have almost 30 grams of protein per serving and drop high-calorie fillings such as creamy cilantro dressing, rice and beans, and replace them with reduced-fat sour cream and cheddar cheese.
"People are not looking for diet food," said Brian Niccol, in line to become Taco Bell's chief executive. "What they are looking for is food that gives them energy."
Taco Bell, owned by Yum Brands Inc., has been tinkering with its menu over the last few years to boost sales and attract new customers. It tested a similar protein menu last summer after customers snubbed its low-calorie and low-fat dishes.
The menu is in response to protein's new food trend status. A recent report from NPD Group shows that 42% of millennials — and more than half of all adults — said it is somewhat or very important to eat more protein. Panera Bread Co. also recently increased its protein options.
Americans are also dabbling in protein-centric diets such as the Paleolithic, or Paleo, which encourages people to eat only whole, unprocessed foods similar to what humans ate in the Stone Age.
In response, the chain began selling high-protein breakfast items this year and is planning to test Greek yogurt with granola, as well as steak burritos and bowls in Omaha, Neb. The Greek yogurt will come from Three Happy Cows, a boutique yogurt supplier, and will cost $2.49.
Consumers should expect to pay a bit more for Taco Bell's protein dishes, though, because costs for beef and pork have climbed this year. Meat prices have spiked more than 5% since May.