Dorito dust may be the new salt for more restaurant chains.
PepsiCo Inc., which owns Cheetos, Fritos, Tostitos and other snacks, found success last year after teaming up with Taco Bell to create Dorito-flavored taco shells. And it has since been dreaming up other restaurant dishes featuring its popular snacks.
The company announced Thursday that it struck a deal to serve its drinks at Buffalo Wild Wings, picking a significant client from beverage rival Coca-Cola Co. Notably, PepsiCo also said it would work with the sports-centric chain to create "unique menu offerings."
In an interview, Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith that she visited PepsiCo's food innovation lab in New York and was shown several dishes the chain might put on its menu. Ideas included Doritos as a crunchy topping for wings or tenders, or even just offering potato chips as a side dish.
Additionally, Smith said she was shown salad dressings and sandwich and chicken wing sauces that incorporate PepsiCo's sodas, including Mountain Dew.
"I don't think it will be in the next 12 months, but we'll possibly start testing after a year or 18 months," she said, noting that considerable planning would be needed to bring the offerings to the company's more than 975 U.S. locations.
PepsiCo clearly sees the idea of incorporating its snacks into menus as a major opportunity. At an analyst conference in Boca Raton, Fla., earlier this year, for example, the company sponsored a lunch featuring recipes using its Naked Juices, Frito chips and other products.
A representative for Pizza Hut also told the AP the chain has looked at ways to use Frito-Lay snacks in its menu. Pizza Hut is owned by Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell and KFC as well. The restaurant chains were owned by PepsiCo until being spun off in 1997.
Over at Taco Bell, Doritos Locos Tacos continue to be a considerable sales driver. Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed has noted that a major advantage of the tacos is that competitors can't replicate them — their success is largely tied to the popularity of the Doritos brand.
The latest partnership with Buffalo Wild Wings is just the latest sign that PepsiCo is trying to use the strength of its Frito-Lay business to bolster its beverage unit, which has long trailed Coca-Cola. It also comes as PepsiCo fights off calls to split its drinks and snacks units.