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Code orange: Mac n' Cheetos is a thing

Mac n' Cheetos
Mac n' Cheetos
Frito-Lay, Burger King

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Throughout human history there have been many famous food pairings — think Peanut butter and jelly, eggs and bacon, burgers and fries.

But a new hybrid snack at Burger King this week has several amateur foodies raising their eyebrows. They're called Mac n' Cheetos.

Mac n' Cheetos
Mac n' Cheetos
Frito-Lay, Burger King

It's a pairing only made possible when BK, backed by Warren Buffett, joins forces with PepsiCo Inc.'s Frito-Lay: sticks of macaroni and cheese, breaded, deep-fried and coated with that classic Cheeto orange.

The combo has created a buzz on Twitter:

This isn't the first fast-food fusion. In 2012, Taco Bell rolled out Doritos Locos Tacos — tacos with a Dorito shell.

Doritos Locos Tacos
Doritos Locos Tacos

So what leads a company to create a culinary crossbreed? And what do they say about the way we eat in America? 

Take Two put that question to Elizabeth Friend, senior foodservice analyst at Euromonitor International, a market research firm based in Santa Monica. 

This product combines two very different products, each successful in their own right. Is it simple product math or is there something more complicated at play here?

It’s a little bit of both. Any time you’re putting two much-loved brands together, there’s some hope that they’re going to borrow a little bit of brand equity from one another and hopefully earn some new fans in the process. There’s also something really interesting going on here. Clearly, these mash-up items generate some excitement that seems to go far beyond the simple sum of the two products involved. I think there’s something really exciting for people about  products that seem like they could potentially be the best thing you’ve eaten that week, or they could also very well be the absolute worst. They like to review it and obsess about it online, and it’s fun to see which side of that line the product ultimately falls on.

Fast food has a reputation for being less healthy. Are companies at the point where they've stopped trying to deny it?

I think they’d probably choose a different way of putting it, but there’s absolutely something to be said for the traditional fast food players accepting the fact that they’re not gonna compete with healthier fast food chains on their level. I think we’re seeing these companies trying to stick to what they do best. If they can’t be the healthiest, then they want to be the most exciting, and they want to be the most indulgent and they know they can offer value that way.

Take Two’s Austin Cross and Lori Galarreta went out and tried Mac n’ Cheetos: 

Have you tried Mac n’ Cheetos? Tweet your thoughts to @TakeTwo

Press the blue play button above to hear the full interview with Elizabeth Friend. 

(Note: Answers have been edited for clarity.)