The Doritos Locos Taco has been insanely successful for Taco Bell, with over 450 million sold since it launched early last year. Fast Company goes behind the scenes of the phenomenon, tracking the taco from an outlandish idea sketched on a piece of paper to the chain's biggest selling item ever. The company says it knew the product would be a hit even before they'd tasted it. "Every day I see a lot of concepts" says Taco Bell's food innovation guru. "But in all my years as a product developer, I've never seen a concept like this." The head honchos of Taco Bell and Doritos-maker Frito Lay even forwent a contract to avoid lawyers delaying the launch.
But turning the iconic tortilla chip into a taco shell was tricky. The company started by blasting Doritos flavoring onto regular shells with a paint-spray gun from Home Depot, but taste testers gave it a thumbs down. So researchers spent two years reworking the recipe to get the Doritos "experience"—a "teeth-rattling crunch" and orange powder on your fingers—just right. When they finally nailed it, the product was an instant success—so successful, the company had to build six manufacturing lines to meet demand. "It's not just a product; it's now a platform," says Taco Bell's CEO. "We're going to blow everyone away in the next few years in terms of how big this idea and platform will become."