The man who came up with the idea for Taco Bell’s billion-dollar “Doritos Locos Taco” passed away from brain cancer on Thanksgiving day, without ever receiving a cent from the fast-food chain — and never asking for one.
"Everybody that I tell about this says 'You should be getting some money off these,’” Todd Mills said last year, shortly after Taco Bell brought this latest stoner-food sensation to the marketplace. “I’ve never once said that I deserved any sort of compensation. I can't be the first person to think of this."
Mills died at age 41 after a short battle against the disease, which earlier caused him to leave his job as VP of media and information technology at the Little Rock, Ark., Chamber of Commerce. He is survived by his wife and two daughters, ages 19 and six.
When friends started a social media campaign to raise money for Mills’ treatment, Taco Bell kicked in $1,000.
Mills came up with the idea to make a taco shell out of the same stuff that goes into Doritos corn chips — whatever that stuff is — back in 2009. He brought the idea to Taco Bell, which laughed him off.
The Doritos taco then became something of a cause for Mills. He started a Facebook page that eventually attracted national media attention, both for its creative taco idea and its humorously Photoshopped photos of various famous people holding bright orange tacos.
Mills wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter to the Frito-Lay company, maker of Doritos. The company told him it could not legally accept unsolicited ideas for new products.
But what the company — which is the most successful division of parent company PepsiCo, raking in $3.62 billion profit last year — didn’t tell Mills is that went ahead and contacted Taco Bell on its own, with the same Dorito Taco idea. This was several months after the fast food chain rejected Mills’ proposal.
The bright orange taco turned out to the most lucrative product launch in the fast food chain’s history. The chain has reportedly sold $1 billion worth already.
In February of last year, Taco Bell flew Mills to its headquarters outside of Los Angeles, where he became one of the first human beings to bit into a Doritos Locos Taco. That’s the very moment, captured for posterity in the photo above.
SOURCES: Los Angeles Times, Arkansas Times, USA Today