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Taco Bell on Verge of Comeback: Sells 100 Million Doritos Tacos in 10 Weeks

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There's a new product on the market that is selling like hot cakes, with 100 million units sold in just 10 weeks. And no, it is not the iPhone or any other Apple product.

It's Taco Bell's new nacho cheese flavored Doritos Locos Taco, which sells for $1.29 and features a shell made from a Doritos chip on the outside, maintaining the same taste as a Taco Bell classic crunchy taco on the inside.

"To put some perspective on the 100 million tacos sold, Taco Bell notes that McDonald's sold its first 100 million burgers in 1958 — 18 years after the first McDonald's burger stand opened, and three years after Ray Kroc started his first McDonald's franchise," reports The Orange Country Register.

The new taco — which debuted in Taco Bell's 5,600 stores on March 8 — has quickly become the company's most successful product launch in its 50-year history. It even led its parent company Yum Brands (YUM) to a 73% profit jump in the first quarter of this year.

You can safely bet the Doritos taco won't end with the nacho cheese flavor. This fall Taco Bell will launch its Cool Ranch rendition. There is also a Hot & Spicy version in the works. In fact, the possibilities are really endless when you consider the fact that Doritos-maker Fritolay produces more than 100 flavors of the chip.

Taco Bell: A Comeback in the Making?

After a handful of brand-damaging incidents over the past couple years — including E. Coli and salmonella outbreaks and a lawsuit questioning whether its taco meat was really beef — Taco Bell faced declining same-store sales. In the first three quarters of last year, the company saw sales decline 1%, 5% and 2% respectively. But in the last quarter of 2011, things started to look up and that momentum has carried through to the first quarter of this year with same-store sales up 6% from the previous year.

"To be a better Taco Bell, the obvious solution was the Doritos Locos Tacos," said Taco Bell CEO Greg Greed in May, reports National Restaurant News. "People love it, it's driving frequency among our heavy users, and we're selling it at a 30-cent premium. … It's really a platform we can build off, not a one-off LTO, and we can drive it for years to come."

Taco Bell may very well be on the verge of a comeback. It has revamped its slogan to "Live Mas" and continues to reinvent its menu to offer customers additional options, including upscale items which are coming soon to a location near you.

On Wednesday, the company announced it will take its new Cantina Bell menu nationwide starting July 5. Brian Niccol, a Taco Bell executive, has called the menu "gourmet Mexican."

The menu was influenced by celebrity chef Loren Garcia — a judge on "America's Next Great Restaurant and contestant on the upcoming series of "Top Chef Masters"— and includes burritos or bowls with the option of chicken, steak or vegetables. There is also the option for upgraded ingredients never before seen at Taco Bell, such as black beans, cilantro spiced rice and dressing and all-white meat chicken marinated in an herb-citrus sauce.

Items on the new Cantina Bell menu are priced below $5 and will compete with other upscale fast-casual Mexican eateries like Chipotle (CMG) and Qdoba.

But Taco Bell's new menu doesn't stop there. The company is currently testing its new breakfast menu in 750 locations across 10 Western states and hopes to expand it to the East Coast later this year and will continue to debut that menu nationwide through 2014.

As the company rebuilds its image, it is standing by all of its new products, offering unsatisfied customers their money back. Apparently, Taco Bell has always had a 100% percent customer satisfaction policy, but is now for the first time advertising it to customers.

Only time will tell if Taco Bell can maintain its momentum, but here's some food for thought. One analyst does predict "Taco Bell could have a McDonald's-like year," reports USA Today.

Tell us what you think! Have you tried a new Taco Bell Doritos Locos Taco?

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