So Who Actually Came Up With The Idea Of The Dorito-Shell Taco?

The answer to the question posed in the headline is probably “every somewhat buzzed college kid in the last 30 years,” but while many of us likely pondered the combination of tacos and Doritos, we all somehow failed to get around to pitching the idea to Taco Bell. And though the recently departed Todd Mills has been credited with pushing the company to make this dream a reality, a writing instructor at the University of Chicago claims he was part of the first group to actually pitch the notion to Taco Bell — in 1995.

Mark Rader tells Fast Company that he was a college student at Tulane, interning with a California ad firm 18 years ago. At the time, the firm counted Taco Bell as a client, and the interns were divided into groups to come up with pitches for the fast food chain.

His group made the connection between Taco Bell and PepsiCo — much like the one the beverage company is trying to develop with Buffalo Wild Wings — and created the “DoritoTaco.”

Rader says his group subsequently had conversations with the Bell’s food scientists about the viability of such a product. Could you replicate the Doritos crunch but still have a stable shell? How do you spray on the powder and how does it affect the flavor? How much would it cost?

The fast food chain would eventually figure all these questions out more than a decade later when it actually got around to developing the Doritos Locos Taco, but it was a dead end discussion back in the mid-’90s.

Though his team may have been the first to formally suggest a Doritos/Taco hybrid, Rader says he has no desire to make any money off the invention that has made Taco Bell over a billion dollars.

“I’m sure we signed away all our intellectual property rights, anyway,” he tells Fast Company.

Meanwhile, there are nearly 1,000 signatures on a petition asking Taco Bell to share some of its wealth with the family of the late Todd Mills, who some credit with the creation of the DLT. The company says it has donated $1,000 to help Mills’ family with medical expenses, but the petitioners say that is an insult considering how much money the DLT has made for Taco Bell.

The folks at Taco Bell HQ, however, has maintained that Mills did not invent the product and that his contribution was to get the public to support his cause.

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