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Taco Bell launching bacon items

IRVINE, Calif., Nov. 8 -- Taco Bell announced Wednesday it is launching three bacon-based menu items -- a bacon cheeseburger burrito, BLT soft taco and chicken club burrito. The move comes several months after the debut of the chain's line of low-fat low-calorie Border Lights tacos and burritos, which has failed to boost profits. It also follows a fast-food industry trend of rolling out bacon items with McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Arby's all introducing burgers and sandwiches with bacon this year. 'Our new product line combines the popularity of America's lunch time classics with the unique excitement of Mexican food,' said Jerry Gramaglia, senior vice president. The bacon cheeseburger burrito will sell for $1.79; the BLT Soft Taco for 99 cents; and the chicken club burrito for $1.99. Taco Bell is launching a series of 30-second television ads to back up the launch. Taco Bell, a division of PepsiCo with $4.5 billion in annual sales, has been trying to broaden its menu in recent years by adding such items as breakfast burritos and children's tacos. It has also been operating the Chevys casual-dining chain. Taco Bells' third-quarter operating profit was down 6 percent to $81 million compared to the 1994 period as its continued seeing its earnings fall from the torrid growth of the early 1990s. Taco Bell debuted the Border Lights in February and staged a national roll-out in May, stressing that the items contain at least 50 percent less fat and an average of 20 percent fewer calories than the original Taco Bell menu items.

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It has said sales of Border Lights are expected to surpass $800 million in the first year. Earlier this year, the consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest said Taco Bell's salad was one of the worst fast foods with 838 calories and 55 grams of fat. The Border Lights campaign comes four years after McDonald's Corp. bombed out with its reduced-fat McLean Deluxe burger. Burger King tried selling some Weight Watchers brand products in 1992, but later dropped that effort.

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