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Monday, May 19, 2008

Best 5 Fast Food Product Innovations From the Past 44 Years

The best 5? Criteria are as follows:

  • Only national fast food chains are eligible.
  • Marketing and packaging can't be the source of the product innovation. No Happy Meals.
  • The innovation does not count if it represents a change in the way an item is cooked or prepared. Taking something that was fried and offering it as grilled doesn't count.
  • The product innovation had to be developed only after the initial menu was in place.
  • The new item cannot have been readily available outside the fast food industry when it was first offered, so fish sandwiches and chili dogs don't count.
  • The item must still be on the menu.
  • The innovation must have been developed in Spicy Food Guy's lifetime; hence the 44 year rule.
  • The innovation must represent a significant and radical change in a food offering. Spicy Food Guy recognizes that he is entering a gray area here. Was the Big Mac a radical change, or just another way to dress a burger? Was the the launch of the Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Wendy's just a flavoring change to the chicken sandwich, or did it act as a catalyst that allowed the fast food industry to begin to unleash the power of hot spices? These are the huge, universe-shifting issues that Spicy Food Guy will wrestle with and ponder long after this post has been published.

And the winners, in no particular order, are:

  1. The Dairy Queen Blizzard. The Blizzard is perhaps the unexpected surprise on the list. A frozen milkshake ice cream sort of thing with candy, yes candy, all through it. Fabulous beyond measure. Spawned a whole sub-industry in the ice cream world. Think Cold Stone Creamery. And every ice cream isle in every grocery store in America now has dozens of ice creams packed with candy. The Blizzard started it all. It commands our respect and reverence. Plus, when the folks at Dairy Queen hand it to you, they flip it upside down for a second. That, says Spicy Food Guy, is way cool.

  2. The McDonald's Egg (or Sausage) McMuffin. Not only did the McMuffin brilliantly combine the best parts of breakfast into a sandwich, it added an entire meal to the fast food industry. Arguably, the Egg McMuffin is solely responsible for a significant change in the breakfast eating behaviors of an entire nation. Just awe inspiring. Breakfast sandwiches are available everywhere now, including in the frozen food isles at grocery stores.

  3. The Taco Bell Double Decker Taco. Spicy Food Guy recognizes that the Double Decker Taco might be a tough sell as a top five innovation, but hear him out. The Double Decker changed the entire flavor and texture profile of the taco. Soft and Crunchy was no longer an either-or proposition; you could suddenly have both. And the refried beans added a subtle layer of additional flavor to the simple taco. Tastes absolutely fabulous. And it has lasted on a menu that seems to change every month.

  4. The McDonald's Chicken McNuggets. Spicy Food Guy loves the simplicity of the McNugget; boneless fried chicken gone portable. Suddenly you could eat fried chicken in the car. Came in a convenient small box. Plus you could dip it in sauce without making a mess. And you didn't have to bother with greasy chicken bones. Kids went bonkers for it. Is there any family restaurant or grocery store in all of America where you can't get some version of a boneless fried chicken strip? Spicy Food Guy can't think of one either. The McNugget started it all.

  5. Pizza Hut's Meat Lover's Pizza. Spicy Food Guy supposes that the Meat Lover's Pizza is a controversial addition to the best 5 list. After all, isn't the Meat Lover's just another way to serve pizza? Spicy Food Guy thinks not. In fact, Spicy Food Guy posits that the Meat Lover's represents the 20th century Americanization of the pizza pie. The Meat Lover's is the Porterhouse of pizza; bold, excessive, decadent, and aspirational. It is designed for people who love big taste and big meals. The Meat Lover's led to an entire line of "Lover's" pizzas at Pizza Hut, and a version of the Lover's can be found in every frozen pizza brand in grocery store freezers. The Meat Lover's has earned its top 5 billing.
So there it is. Spicy Food Guy is aware he has left significant product innovations off the list. So Spicy Food Guy challenges his readers -- what was left off that should have been included? What on the list is a sham? Let the debate begin.


  1. Its SPICY food Guy, not just any food Guy. Where's the spicy foods


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