the Doritos fan who came up with the idea for Taco Bell's wildly-popular Doritos Loco Taco
— which went on to become one of the biggest product launches in American history, raking in a billion dollars and counting for the fast food chain — died on Thanksgiving day after a struggle with brain cancer.
Mills, a vice president of media and information tech at the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, never sought any compensation for coming up with the idea. He told Arkansas Times in March 2012
that the brainstorm came to him in 2009, as he was eating a taco when a commercial for Doritos came on TV. "I looked at my wife and said: 'How awesome would it be if this taco shell was a Dorito?' " Mills said. After sending a letter about the idea to Doritos maker Frito Lay and being told no, Mills launched a Facebook campaign called the "Taco Shells from Doritos Movement"
in 2009, posting pictures of news events, celebrities and famous art with cheese-dust-covered taco shells Photoshopped in.
In 2012, Mills was contacted by Taco Bell, who flew him to their test kitchen in California to taste their new product: the Doritos Locos Taco. Mills later learned that in early 2010, around six months after he wrote to them, Frito Lay had approached Taco Bell with the idea of a Doritos-flavored taco shell. For his part, Mills was allowed to taste a prototype Doritos Locos Taco, then went home. Though Taco Bell has since sold over $1 billion
in Doritos Locos Tacos, Mills never received any payment
"Everybody that I tell about this," he told us in 2012, "says 'You should be getting some money off these'... I've never once said that I deserved any sort of compensation. I can't be the first person to think of this."
Mills had to quit work in August as his cancer progressed. During Mills' treatment and surgeries, a website was set up to help offset the cost of his medical bills
. USA Today reports
Mills' friend as saying Taco Bell donated $1,000. On Mills' death, Taco Bell issued a statement that called Mills a "true friend."
"We are honored to have had his support through the Doritos for Taco Shells Movement on Facebook," the statement read in part, "and we admire his strength and optimism during his recent battle. Our thoughts and sympathies are with Todd's family during this time."
Mills is survived by his wife, Ginger, and his daughters, Tyler, 19, and Lainey, 6.
Just checked Taco Bell's Facebook page,
and the story of Mills' death — and Taco Bell's $1000 contribution — is going viral and beginning to cause some backlash for the company. Scroll down on the right hand side of their page and look for "Recent Posts by Others on Taco Bell."
Among the many, many comments on the Taco Bell Facebook page — most of them angry — was one by Todd Mills' wife, Cabot High English teacher Ginger Mills, seen below, posted about an hour ago: