Thankfully, Fast Company’s Austin Carr has put together a rather exhaustive history on the topic. And in the spirit of bite-sized information, we’ve pulled out a few things we found particularly interesting…
1. It all began in 2009: Taco Bell’s curiously Australian CEO Greg Creed wanted something new, exciting and young for the chain’s 50th anniversary in 2012, so he challenged his folks to “reinvent the crunchy taco.”
2. It was actually Frito-Lay’s suggestion: While there were plenty of other ideas brainstormed — they apparently never got my memo about a Snickers burrito — it was the folks at Frito-Lay who said what many of us had thought, red-eyed, at 2 a.m.: How about a shell made from Doritos?
3. The first prototypes were just spray-painted tacos: Rather than go through the hassle of creating a genuine Dorito shell taco just to gauge interest, Taco Bell just spray-painted some existing shells the color of Doritos. Apparently, that alone was enough to convince execs and test-subjects that it was worth continuing.
4. The first tests did not exactly go well: When it came time to actually create the first edible examples, Taco Bell might as well have given testers those spray-painted tacos, as the Doritos seasoning was not playing nice with the Taco Bell shells. “This idea of merging a chip and a shell together–it sounds simple, but it’s very hard to make a reality,” explains one Bell exec.
5. They went through more than 40 recipes for the shell: Doritos and Taco Bell shells may both be corn-based, but they use different types of corn meal. Doritos are crunchy and it’s not terribly important if there’s a bit of breakage in shipping. Taco shells are more flexible and have to hold up during shipping, storage and handling. “There were some [prototypes] where we would barely even touch them and the shell would break,” says Taco Bell.
6. A special type of seasoning machine had to be created: Taco Bell couldn’t toss the finished shells into the big seasoning barrels that Frito-Lay uses to add flavor to the chips. And spraying the shells with seasoning created plumes of flavored dust that would probably have choked out the factory workers (and just created a huge, wasteful mess), so Taco Bell had to create a proprietary, enclosed system that coated the shells evenly but didn’t kill people.
7. Next up — the Doritos Flamas-flavored tacos: After the release of the Cool Ranch DLT, everyone wanted to know what was next. Taco Bell tells Fast Company that the spicier Flamas will be the next DLT flavor to hit consumers’ bellies.
Again, you can read the whole sordid story here.