Serving a taco in a shell made of Doritos certainly sounds like the type of thing a bunch of college students would invent, and now some former Taco Bell interns say that’s exactly what happened when they came up with the idea for the Doritos taco 20 years ago.
The Taco Bell Doritos Locos Taco became a real thing in 2012, and has since gone on to be the most successful product in Taco Bell’s history. But according to The Huffington Post, that idea was pitched by a group of Taco Bell interns back in the summer of 1995, and the interns say they have photo proof.
20-year-old Andrea Watt was one of Taco Bell’s summer interns that year, and she and three other students pitched a taco made out of Doritos to company executives as part of an intern competition that summer. They submitted sample promotional materials for the proposed menu item and received feedback from a Taco Bell executive about the idea. Watt still has all those materials 20 years later, along with a picture of her intern team with a big “Dorito Taco” sign for their presentation.
Oddly enough, the Doritos Taco did not win that competition. Watt’s team lost out to a different group that pitched a line of appetizers called “Mexitizers.” The Doritos Locos Taco that debuted in 2012 has netted more than $1 billion in sales.
Watt and the other interns say they aren’t looking for money, but they wouldn’t mind getting a little credit.
“I’m sure I signed away that anything I pitched to them was their property anyway,” Watt said to The Huffington Post. “I would just like someone to recognize that it was a good idea."
The former interns say they’re actually surprised it took so long for the Doritos Taco to become a real thing.
“When I saw it come out, my jaw almost dropped,” Watt said. “I’m surprised it took so long, it was just so obvious to us then. When we did our presentation they were like, ‘It’s not really that marketable,’ and we were like, ‘What?’”
Mark Rader, one of Watt’s team members, said he was stunned when he saw a billboard for a Doritos Locos Taco in Chicago.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, no way,’” he said. “It’s really a thing. Are people really going to want this?”
Bob Taber, a former executive at Taco Bell’s 1995 ad agency said he did not remember the exact pitch, but he did remember the internship competition.
“I don’t know what the client ended up doing with them, but the client certainly saw all of the pitches,” he said. “It’s not uncommon at all to come up with a new product idea that goes nowhere, but then years later pops up.”
Rob Poetsch, Taco Bell’s director of public affairs and engagement, dismissed the claims, saying that many people have claimed to have come up with the Doritos Locos Taco since its debut.
"Good ideas can come from anywhere, but an idea without execution does not make a successful product," he said in an email to The Huffington Post.