The Rise and Fall of the Mexican Pizza
Taco Bell first introduced the Mexican Pizza in 1985. It quickly became one of their most popular menu items. The Mexican Pizza consisted of two fried tortillas layered with refried beans, beef, tomatoes, and a blend of Mexican spices and cheeses. Topped with more cheese, tomatoes, and a tangy pizza sauce, the Mexican Pizza provided a unique taste that fused Mexican and pizza flavors.
For over three decades, the Mexican Pizza remained a staple on Taco Bell’s menu. Generations grew up loving this south-of-the-border pizza creation. However, in September 2020 Taco Bell announced that it would be removing the Mexican Pizza from its menu on November 5, 2020. This news shocked and disappointed fans across the nation. The removal of such an iconic menu item left many Taco Bell customers wondering why this decision was made and if the Mexican Pizza would ever return.
Why Did Taco Bell Get Rid of the Mexican Pizza?
Taco Bell claimed there were two main reasons for axing the Mexican Pizza:
Streamlining the Menu
Over the past few years, Taco Bell has looked for ways to streamline its menu by cutting less popular items. This strategy helps kitchens operate more efficiently and speeds up service times. Although the Mexican Pizza had a devoted fanbase, Taco Bell stated it was one of its lower-selling items. Eliminating it from the permanent menu allowed them to focus on more popular foods.
Reducing Packaging Waste
Taco Bell also cited a desire to reduce waste and be more eco-friendly as another factor in removing Mexican Pizzas. Each pizza came wrapped in a cardboard sleeve inside a pizza box. These extra packaging materials eventually end up in landfills. Taken across all locations, millions of Mexican Pizzas added up to lots of waste each year. Taco Bell wanted to cut down on its environmental impact.
However, fans were quick to point out that many other menu items also came with similar cardboard wrapping and packaging. So this reason seemed questionable or not applicable only to the Mexican Pizza.
Backlash from Fans
The response from Taco Bell’s loyal customers was immediate and harsh. Fans took to social media to express their outrage over the loss of their beloved Mexican Pizza. Many customers said they would boycott Taco Bell until the Mexican Pizza returned.
A Change.org petition called “Save the Mexican Pizza” received over 171,000 signatures from supporters. The petition called the Mexican Pizza a “cult favorite” and described its removal as “another example of Taco Bell ignoring its fans.”
The backlash highlighted just how passionate people felt about this unique menu item. Taco Bell underestimated the popularity and sentimental connection many customers had to the Mexican Pizza. While streamlining the menu and reducing waste were logical business decisions on paper, fans made it clear that removing this iconic item was a mistake.
Brief Comeback in 2022
In response to the customer complaints, Taco Bell announced in May 2022 that the Mexican Pizza would return to menus on September 15 for a limited time. Fans rejoiced at the news that their beloved pizza would once again be available.
Taco Bell CMO Zipporah Allen said they were “thrilled to bring back this iconic fan favorite” and thanked customers for their “love of this product.”
The fast food chain brought back the Mexican Pizza in partnership with its supplier to address sustainability concerns. New pizza packaging consisted of recyclable trays and cardboard sleeves made with 20% post-consumer recycled fibers. These efforts helped reduce waste compared to the original packaging.
The relaunch generated enthusiasm and long waits as people rushed to get their hands on the Mexican Pizza again. However, widespread shortages soon occurred with many locations running out of ingredients to assemble the item. Cheese and pizza sauce were often in limited supply.
This stock problem exposed flaws in Taco Bell’s supply chain planning and distribution. While marketing focused on the comeback, food suppliers and kitchens were apparently underprepared for the sudden surge in demand. For customers, the consequence was disappointment when they couldn’t actually purchase a Mexican Pizza due to lack of ingredients.
Another downside was the price hike. The Mexican Pizza cost $4.49 compared to around $2.99 previously. Higher prices combined with limited availability soured what should have been a joyous return.
Removal Again in Early 2023
By late 2022, Taco Bell announced that the Mexican Pizza would once more vanish from menus starting in January 2023. After the rushed, underwhelming re-launch, Taco Bell evidently decided to abandon the Mexican Pizza again rather than committing to its permanent return.
Losing the Mexican Pizza for a second time angered its devoted fans who felt Taco Bell was ignoring their pleas. The ongoing saga of its appearance and disappearance created fatigue for customers. Many stated they were done supporting a brand that kept flip-flopping on major menu decisions without regard for loyal patrons.
However, Taco Bell maintains that this second removal is different than the initial 2020 decision. This time, the Mexican Pizza will eventually come back in all of its glory for good.
Promise of a Full-Time Comeback
In statements, Taco Bell says the early 2023 farewell is only temporary. They acknowledge the complications during its limited-time rollout in 2022. Taco Bell claims they are taking the time to reformulate the Mexican Pizza to solve these issues before relaunching it as a permanent menu item later in 2023.
The fast food giant says it is working closely with suppliers to shore up ingredient shortages and prevent future disruptions. They also plan to have ample pizza sauce and tortillas stockpiled at every location going forward.
And Taco Bell vows that the next return of the Mexican Pizza will achieve two goals:
Bringing back prices closer to its original cost is a top priority. Customers have made it clear that the huge price bump of $4.49 was unacceptable and priced out many fans. Taco Bell states they will find ways to offer better value pricing more in line with customer expectations when it comes back for good.
Taco Bell remains committed to eco-friendly packaging for all menu items, including the Mexican Pizza. While the cardboard trays helped somewhat, they aim to go further. Executives are currently exploring new types of recyclable and compostable materials that protect the pizza’s integrity while minimizing waste.
Once these changes are made, Taco Bell says it will proudly reintroduce the Mexican Pizza on a permanent basis. Fans may need to wait a bit longer, but they vow the improved Mexican Pizza 2.0 will be worth it.
Why Does the Mexican Pizza Matter So Much?
It’s fair to ask why a single fast food menu item generates this much passion and debate. For many Taco Bell customers, the Mexican Pizza represents an enjoyable mix of nostalgia and flavor. They have fond memories of enjoying this unique fusion food over decades of their lives.
The Mexican Pizza also stands out because it crossed boundaries and showed innovation. It merged Mexican and Italian cuisines decades before “fusion” became a popular cooking trend. When it first debuted, it was rare to see a fast food chain exploring new flavor combinations using international influences. The Mexican Pizza broke that mold and expanded people’s palates.
Of course, there is also simply its delicious taste. The zesty taco beef and smooth refried beans pair wonderfully with the melted cheese and sauce. It provided an alluring combo of crispy, cheesy, meaty textures in each bite. People kept returning for this mouth-watering mashup of flavors and textures.
When Taco Bell declared it was removing this beloved item, it felt personal for fans. It struck a nerve and made people question if the company was abandoning its innovative culture and loyal customers along with it. The Mexican Pizza became a symbol of all that Taco Bell represented during better days. For many, its disappearance signified the end of an era.
Will Taco Bell Follow Through on Its Promises?
The big question now is—will Taco Bell stay true to its word and bring back the Mexican Pizza as a permanent, improved menu item? The fast food giant damaged some trust through the messy 2022 re-release and subsequent quick removal weeks later. Understandably, fans feel skepticism about Taco Bell’s intentions.
However, Taco Bell is a large corporation motivated by profits. Continued backlash and boycotting by customers hurts their bottom line. The company also doesn’t want to risk further degrading its reputation with core customers. These factors provide business incentives for Taco Bell to fix the Mexican Pizza failings and restore this iconic menu item.
But only time will tell if Taco Bell makes good on its promises or simply hoped to temporarily placate angry fans. Customers will be anxiously awaiting the next return of the Mexican Pizza to see if Taco Bell got it right. If the improved Mexican Pizza does come back at a fair price point with sustainable packaging, the company may repair some of the goodwill it lost.
Taco Bell needs to recognize that the Mexican Pizza is not just another menu item—it’s a beloved brand icon. The keys to redemption are listening to customers, showing commitment to core values, and delivering on quality. With the right approach, Taco Bell could write a positive new chapter in the Mexican Pizza saga.
The curious case of Taco Bell’s on-again/off-again Mexican Pizza shows what can happen when a major corporation underestimates customer sentimentality and backlash. While trying to streamline menus and reduce waste are worthwhile goals on paper, Taco Bell clearly didn’t account for the cultural significance of the Mexican Pizza.
The menu item resonated with generations of people who formed nostalgic bonds and cravings for this tasty food mashup. When Taco Bell axed it without warning, they discovered just how fiercely loyal people felt to the Mexican Pizza.
Hopefully the company learns some lessons here. Listen to your customers and realize certain menu items transcend being just another food product. Bring back the Mexican Pizza with care and respect, not haste and hubris. Take a beloved brand icon off life support, nurse it back to full health, and ensure it receives the appreciation it deserves.
If the fans are patient and Taco Bell follows a thoughtful process, the Mexican Pizza may yet rise again like a cheesy Phoenix from the ashes. That would give this unique south-of-the-border pizza creation a happy ending that devotees are eagerly craving.