By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
Q. What's bright orange and fizzes?
A. Pepsi-flavored Cheetos, of course.
No, you can't buy them in the USA -- at least, not yet -- but the
weirdly flavored combo snack is now being sold in Japan where almost no
flavors are too wacky to mix and match.
The snacks, which hit
shelves in Japan last month, will only be sold there for a limited time,
says Frito-Lay spokesman Jeff Dahncke. For the moment, at least, there
are no plans to bring the chips to the U.S., he says. But clearly, the
world's biggest snack food giant is hip to the international food
trend that's spread across supermarket shelves: flavor-mashing.
flavors like Cheetos and Pepsi "speaks to consumers short attention
spans," says Lynn Dornblaser, new products guru at the research firm
Mintel. "Consumers all want something absolutely new that's never been
seen before." That, after all, may be about the best way to stand out
from the estimated 20,000 food and drink products introduced each year
in the U.S., alone.
There's a food industry term for how consumers
respond to product mashes like Pepsi and Cheetos: mouth surprise.
"The mouth doesn't anticipate the combo, which actually makes it more
pleasurable to the brain," says food scientist Steven Witherly, author
of Why Humans Like Junk Food: The Inside Story on Why You Like Your Favorite Foods. "If something looks like a Cheeto but tastes like a Pepsi, it wakes up the brain."
product review for Pepsi-flavored Cheetos was posted Thursday on The
Impulsive Buy blog. It says that these Cheetos actually fizz in the
"The first sensation, which I did not expect, was a very
acidic bite," says the reviewer. "It tries to capture the citrus notes
of Pepsi, but it's over the top. Too lemony. The sweeter cola flavor is
there but it's subtler and overpowered by the intense citrus."
you don't need to go to Japan for weird flavor combos. Over the past
18 months or so, Taco Bell has mashed three different flavored Doritos
into its Taco shells. And Oreo keeps spinning out all kinds of odd Oreo
flavor combos, including the most recent, Rainbow Sherbet Ice Cream
Oreos -- plopped, mercifully, into vanilla (not chocolate) Oreos. (In
Japan, it sells Green Tea Oreos.)
In the evolving world of social
media posts, tweets and snaps, it's all about products finding ways to
garner attention, says Dornblaser. "There's something to be said about
products that elicit an 'ew' response," she says. That is, if a product
has a reasonable gross-out factor, there's also a reasonable chance that
someone who tries it will post it on their Facebook page. Which is all
the product makers really want, anyway.
But Dornblaser says she's
not nearly bold enough to eat a bag of Pepsi-flavored Cheetos. Then,
again, she says, "I'd eat a handful."