NEW YORK - Dorito dust may be the new salt for more restaurant chains.
PepsiCo Inc., which owns Cheetos, Fritos, Tostitos and other snacks, found success last year after teaming up with Taco Bell to create Dorito-flavored taco shells. And it has since been looking to dream up other restaurant dishes featuring its popular snacks.
The company announced Thursday that it struck a deal to serve its drinks at Buffalo Wild Wings, picking a significant client from beverage rival Coca-Cola Co. Notably, however, PepsiCo also said it would work with the sports-centric chain to create "unique menu offerings."
During a trip to PepsiCo's food innovation lab, Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith said in an interview that she was shown several dishes that might be a hit with the chain's customers. For example, Doritos as a crunchy topping for wings or tenders, or even just offering potato chips as a side dish.
Additionally, Smith said she was shown ideas for salad dressings and sandwich and chicken wing sauces that incorporate PepsiCo's colas, including Mountain Dew.
"I don't think it will be in the next 12 months, but we'll possibly start testing after a year or 18 months," she said, noting that considerable research and planning would be needed to bring the offerings to the company's more than 975 U.S. locations.
More broadly, PepsiCo clearly sees the idea of incorporating its snacks into menus as a major opportunity. Pizza Hut, for instance, has also looked at ways to team up with Frito-Lay snacks, according to a representative. Pizza Hut is owned by Yum Brands, which is also the parent company of Taco Bell and KFC.
Over at Taco Bell, Doritos Locos Tacos have been and a considerable sales driver, boosting the fortunes of both PepsiCo and Yum. Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed has noted that a major advantage of the Doritos Locos Tacos is that nobody can replicate them - their success is largely tied to the popularity the Doritos brand.
The latest partnership with Buffalo Wild Wings reflects PepsiCo's push to use the strength of its snacks business to bolster its beverage business, which has long trailed Coca-Cola. That campaign comes as PepsiCo fights off calls to split its drinks and snacks unit. PepsiCo has responded to the calls for a split by touting a "Power of One" marketing campaign that features one of its snacks with one of its drinks.
A representative for PepsiCo wasn't immediately available for comment.