Two more chains are taking steps to distance themselves from fast food's reputation for low-quality ingredients.
Pizza Hut and Taco Bell announced plans today to change brand standards to emphasize natural ingredients and phase out artificial flavors and coloring. Taco Bell plans to remove all artificial flavors and coloring from the menu by the end of the year, while Pizza Hut will have completed the removal process by the end of July.
"Today’s consumer more than ever before wants to understand the ingredients that make up the foods that they enjoy," David Gibbs, Pizza Hut's CEO, said in a statement. "As the world’s largest pizza company that has unrivaled heritage in quality and flavorful pizzas, it only made sense for us to lead the category in this area."
The chains, both of which are owned by Yum Brands, are also planning on cutting other non-natural ingredients. Taco Bell reportedly plans to remove additional artificial preservatives and additives by the end of 2017, with hopes to remove added trans fats at some point in the future. Pizza Hut has already eliminated artificial trans fats (also called partially hydrogenated oils). The chain is additionally engaged in a multi-year process to reduce sodium, saying that by 2020, 20 percent of Pizza Hut pizzas will contain just one third of the daily recommended dietary allowance for sodium.
While Taco Bell has referred to the brand standard boost as "ingredient simplification," the process of reconceiving recipes is anything but simple for the chains. The new standards will affect all nationally available pizzas at Pizza Hut, and 95 percent of Taco Bell's core food items.
The new menu standards fit into a wider trend in the world of quick-service restaurants, as traditional fast-food chains find themselves competing against trendy fast casuals. Earlier in May, Panera posted an extensive list of more than 150 artificial additives that will soon no longer be served at the restaurant chain, with plans to complete the ingredient removal process by the end of 2016. In April, Chipotle – the poster child for fast-casual sustainability and fresh ingredients – announced it had gone GMO-free. Even McDonald's is obsessed with shaking its reputation for cheap, low-quality food, recently announcing that the company would only source chicken raised with minimal antibiotics and hinting at plans to explore more localized ingredients.