Love them or hate them, the marketing genius behind the Taco Bell Doritos Locos tacos can't be denied. In a fast food landscape littered with outrageous food products (The Baconator! The Double Down!), the Bell's creation of a taco shell dusted with Doritos flavoring stood out as the best of all the guilty pleasures.
What you may or may not have known is that credit for the original idea goes to Todd Mills of Little Rock. Way back in 2009, Mills had his eureka moment while eating a taco and watching a Doritos commercial. Despite initial resistance from Frito-Lay, Mills was eventually successful due in large part to a popular Facebook group he formed called the "Taco Shells Made From Doritos Movement."
Mills unfortunately lost his battle with brain cancer on Thanksgiving this year, passing away at 41. Taco Bell released a statement that said, in part, "“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.”
We like to snark on fast food here at Eat Arkansas, but today our sympathies are with the wife, two daughters, and other family that Mills left behind. David Koon first reported on Mills back in 2012, and is reporting over on the Arkansas Blog today about the blowback against the paltry donation Taco Bell made for Mills' treatment (only $1,000) after making over a billion dollars from his idea.
UPDATE: It appears that Taco Bell, instead of taking this opportunity to give the Mills family a little more monetary support in these trying times, is instead reaching out to those of us who have written about Todd — asking us to let all of you know that Todd didn't "invent" anything, and basically calling us a bunch of liars for saying so.
PR hack Jenna Rathke of Taylor Strategy e-mailed me this updated statement (parts in bold were done by me):
We know this is a tragic time for Todd’s family. He was a huge Taco Bell fan. He was passionate about the Doritos Locos Taco, and although he did not invent it, he founded a Facebook page to drum up support. In light of his passion, we invited him to be one of the first to try it. He became a true friend of the brand, so when we learned of his ill health, we made a $1,000 donation towards his medical expenses. We will miss Todd very much and our hearts are with his family and friends in this difficult time.
There are good ways to handle these sorts of situations, and there are bad ways. Sending out emails like this ranks on up there with some of the worst. Taco Bueno tacos are better, anyway.