by David Koon
If you've watched television or been anywhere near a Taco Bell restaurant in recent weeks, you've probably seen the advertisements for their new Doritos Locos Tacos — tacos with a shell that's drenched inside and out with the neon-orange cheese dust commonly seen on Doritos brand corn chips. A Cool Ranch Doritos version is reportedly in the works and coming soon to a Taco Bell near you.
Could there be a more perfect collision of late-nite drunkchow? Probably not, unless Pizza Hut can figure out a way to make a Cheetos-stuffed pizza crust. That Cheetos-in-a-pizza idea is MINE, by the way. No stealzies.
We bring it up because of the story we heard the other day from Todd Mills, vice president, media and information technology at Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. Way back in 2009, Mills was eating a plain ol' non-Doritos taco when a commercial for Doritos came on TV. A lightbulb went off. "I looked at my wife and said: 'How awesome would it be if this taco shell was a Dorito?'" Mills said.
Soon thereafter, Mills started what he called an organic social experiment — a Facebook page called the Taco Shells Made from Doritos Movement. Around the same time, Mills said, he wrote a funny letter to Frito Lay, which makes Doritos, saying it would be great if they could make Doritos taco shells a reality.
Even though he soon received a reply saying that Frito Lay couldn't accept outside ideas about products, Mills kept on with the Taco Shells Made from Doritos page, making and posting funny, Photoshopped pictures of movie characters holding the mythical Doritos shells. Eventually, the page racked up over 3,000 likes. The foodie site Food Beast wrote about the TSMFD page, and things really took off. Before long, Mills said, the online food blogs of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Time had linked to the page. The page views soon spiked over a million.
Then, in the middle of February, Mills' phone rang. It was the folks at Taco Bell, inviting Mills out to their headquarters and test kitchens in Irvine, California to taste his fantasy made real (he posted a Photoshop of Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket to mark the occasion). Come to find out, Mills soon learned, Frito Lay had approached Taco Bell in early 2010 (around six months after he says he wrote to them) with the idea of making Doritos-flavored taco shells. It wound up being the biggest product launch in the restaurant's history.
Mills flew to Irvine, got picked up in a limo for a steak dinner, and went to the Taco Bell HQ the next day for a prototype Doritos Locos Taco. Verdict: "It was good. I got one made by the people in the test kitchen, so it was exactly to spec. I've eaten one [in a restaurant] since, and they're good." He wound up getting to meet the CEO of the company, and got some t-shirts and other swag.
As for getting a taste of that sweet, sweet taco money? "Everybody that I tell about this says 'You should be getting some money off these.'" Nevertheless, Mills seems to shrug off the idea that he should lawyer up. "I've never once said that I deserved any sort of compensation," he said. "I can't be the first person to think of this."
On the other hand: "If they wanted to send me a big taco check, that would be alright."
Taco checks? Genius! Why didn't WE think of that?