Two more popular fast-food outlets have joined the growing list of restaurant chains doing away with artificial ingredients – but one observer says it’s more a marketing ploy than a concern over serving healthy food.
The move by Taco Bell and Pizza Hut comes as other restaurants and chains are replacing artificial ingredients with natural items they call “fresh” and “healthy.” The CEO of Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, expressed a desire last year for “real food” in the industry.
But Julie Gunlock – a mom, author and senior fellow for the Independent Women’s Forum – thinks this is more about marketing than anything else.
“A lot of these restaurants are having to compete with restaurants that are new in the market [and] are advertising quick and healthy food,” she explains. “And indeed, there are a lot of restaurants out there that offer very quick meals but that are healthier and fresher. So a lot of the sort of more established, older companies are having to look at new marketing strategies.”
Taco Bell announced it is tossing artificial colors, flavors, high-fructose corn syrup and other ingredients by the end of this year. Artificial preservatives will get the heave-ho by 2017 “where possible.” New recipes without artificial colors and flavors are already being tested in select markets. Fountain drinks and co-branded products like the Doritos-favored taco shells are not included in the phase-out.
Pizza Hut plans to remove artificial flavors and colors by the end of July. Once changes are completed, Pizza Hut will begin listing its ingredients online.
Gunlock, who admits not being overly concerned about artificial flavors and colors in foods, says one reason why restaurants use additives is because they are cheaper. Consequently, she says, using natural ingredients may cause prices to rise.
The CEO of Taco Bell tells The Associated Press that the company will work to keep its menu affordable.