The challenges brought forth by the pandemic forced many restaurants to trim their menus. For the most part, it was a savvy move meant to streamline operations and labor in a pressured environment.
For Taco Bell, however, the decision to remove its fan-favorite Mexican Pizza ignited an intense social media backlash that continues to linger over a year later and includes a Change.org petition signed by 200,000-plus people.
Today, those fans have reason to rejoice, as Taco Bell announced its signature Mexican Pizza will return May 19.
They can also breathe easier knowing this move is permanent.
The company’s initial announcement of the Mexican Pizza’s removal in September 2020 noted it would help toward the chain’s sustainable packaging commitment. Mexican Pizza packaging accounts for over 7 million pounds of paperboard material per year in the U.S.
In an emailed statement, the company said the product will be continue to be served in a paperboard box, but encourages recycling from its fans.
“As always, it is important to review the materials accepted at your local municipality to confirm recyclability,” a spokesperson said, adding, “Taco Bell continues to diligently work to achieve sustainably commitments while delivering delicious food innovations that fans crave.”
The company also said its team prepared for the relaunch by working “to streamline operations and ingredient sourcing and leave a lighter footprint at the same time.” The company didn’t disclose more details about ingredient sourcing changes, but said the product’s return was expedited with the help of improvement toward its sustainability goals, including its recycling program pilot which aims to keep more than 8 billion sauce packets out of landfills each year.
Judging by the volume of fan grievances and their efforts calling for Mexican Pizza’s return, it’s assumed the product sold well for the chain. Their pent-up demand should drive significant traffic out of the gate.
“Our menu is full of fan-favorites, but the Mexican Pizza is at the top of that list. From its flashy introduction to menus in 1985 as ‘Pizzazz Pizza’ to its inspiration behind the creation of infamous jingles, Mexican Pizza has a long history with the brand and I’m glad we could give fans what they crave and bring our classic Mexican Pizza back home where it belongs,” CEO Mark King said in a statement.
That said, the return of Mexican Pizza not only creates good news for Taco Bell’s loyal customers, and likely the company’s top line, but also the quick-service category in general. The Mexican Pizza was introduced in 1985 (then called “Pizzazz Pizza”) and has been an iconic menu item in the space. It illustrates a sort of simple innovation–crisp pizza shells, refried beans, a layer of beef, pizza sauce, cheese and tomatoes–and is also accessible at a cost of $4.49 (about 60 cents more than its price two years ago).
It’s also available as a vegetarian option, which helped position the chain as a strong option for such customers (who are growing in number).
Taco Bell is promoting the return of its Mexican Pizza with a TikTok (as well as a tweet) from Grammy Award-winning hip hop star Doja Cat, who began partnering with the chain in February for its Super Bowl promotion. Doja Cat has also been part of the calls to bring the offering back, creating a TikTok rap in March about the product with the hook, “Mexican pizza is the pizza for you and me.”
Taco Bell is also rewarding select petition participants and additional fans who tweet “#IBroughtBackTheMexicanPizza” with exclusive merch that says the same thing.
It’s worth noting here that Taco Bell’s rabid fans also helped bring back potatoes over a year ago after they, too, were trimmed early on in the pandemic. In a statement at the time, a spokesperson said fan response was one of the biggest reasons for the potato relaunch. For context, the potato petition garnered about 23,000 signatures versus the 200,000-plus Mexican Pizza petition.