Admit it: You’ve probably seen a product hit the big time and thought, “I came up with that first!” Whether or not you’ve ever eaten a Doritos Locos Taco and enjoyed it or not, the man who started the push for tacos to be served in Doritos got to participate in seeing his dream become reality. Sadly, Todd Mills’ family says he passed away on Thanksgiving at the age of 41.
Mills’ wife said it all started because her husband used to make taco salads using Doritos, often saying someone should use the chips as taco shells, reports USA Today.
When he wrote a letter to Frito-Lay with his grand idea in 2009, their reply was basically “Thanks, but no thanks,” his wife Ginger says.
(Which is interesting because it’s been reported that Frito-Lay came up with the idea before bringing it to Taco Bell.)
But that didn’t deter Mills from his taco dream — instead he pledged to bring attention to his idea “from a grassroots level,” his long-time friend said, starting the Facebook page “Taco Shells from Doritos Movement” in 2009.
He featured photos of figures like Albert Einstein and the Mona Lisa with PhotoShopped images of cheesy taco shells, and one day Taco Bell took notice and commented on a photo.
In 2012 Mills got a phone call from Taco Bell that his dream was coming true — the company wanted him to fly out to California to test their Doritos Locos Tacos and be one of the first people to try it.
Upon news of Mills’ passing, Taco Bell said he was a “true friend” of the company in a statement.
“We are honored to have had his support through the Doritos for Taco Shells Movement on Facebook, and we admire his strength and optimism during his recent battle. Our thoughts and sympathies are with Todd’s family during this time.”
While many people would see dollar signs dancing at that point, Mills’ friends say that despite their encouragement to cash in on his idea, he didn’t want to go that route.
“Todd being Todd, he never asked for anything,” his friend said. “He said, ‘I just want my tacos.'”
For all the consumers out there with big ideas that never get to the big time, we salute you, Todd, for not giving up.
Doritos Locos Tacos visionary dies at 41 [USA Today]