By the end of this year, Taco Bell will have legitimate black pepper (opposed to “black pepper flavor”) in its signature seasoned beef, reports the Associated Press.

That’s only one step the chain is taking to remove artificial flavors and colors from its menu by the end of 2015. For the record, Pizza Hut—a fellow Yum! Brands company—also plans on removing artificial colors and flavors by the end of July.

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What This Means

Artificial colors, artificial flavors, high-fructose corn syrup, and “unsustainable” palm oil will all be gone from Taco Bell’s ingredients lists by the end of 2015. The company also says it will remove all artificial preservatives “where possible” by the end of 2017. Fountain drinks and co-branded menu items such as Doritos-flavored taco shells will be exempt from these new standards.

Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol says the company will try to keep its menu as affordable as possible, even telling AP, “I do not want to lose any element of being accessible to the masses.”

Will Your Favorite Flavors Change?

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A Taco Bell representative offered reassurance that “It will be the same great tasting Taco Bell that people love.” Obviously, only your taste buds will tell after all this change takes effect.

Looks Great On Paper

taste buds

For better or for worse, smart businesses figure out what customers want, and aren’t afraid to change with the flow of public opinion. As Penn State University professor of food science John Coupland observed, removing artificial ingredients from menus can mean great PR for a company without actually changing meaningful things such as sodium, sugar, or portion size reduction.

In April, Chipotle announced that it was getting rid of all genetically modified ingredients (GMOs) from its menus. But critics were quick to question the scientific basis for Chipotle’s anti-GMO move, and several media outlets expressed skepticism.

About Chipotle’s new stance, Grist commented,

These changes are disappointingly superficial: Chipotle will simply switch to corn grown with atrazine, rather than glyphosate, and herbicide-tolerant sunflowers in place of herbicide-tolerant soy.

Panera, McDonald’s, and Subway also announced major ingredient changes to menu items prior to the Yum! Brands announcement, and AP points out that KFC (the third brand in the Yum! triumvirate) was unavailable for comment when the media outlet’s story was filed.

Whether you welcome this change or view it with that special side-eye reserved for bandwagon-jumpers, one thing’s for sure: This marks a definite change from a year ago, and Taco Bell’s less-than-transparent explanation of the contents of its “88% Beef” beef.

[via the AP]