Five years ago, Taco Bell asked Tyson Foods a question: “Can you put cheese inside a tortilla?”

The company has answered the question by creating the Quesalupa, which is being honored as the Prepared Foods Spirit of Innovation Awards Editor’s Pick and Most Innovative New Product. 

The perfect spicy kick and right gooey pull of pepper jack cheese combined with the tender bite of the chewy, flaky Chalupa shell have made the Quesalupa a consumer favorite–Taco Bell has sold more than 74 million Quesalupas since its 2016 Super Bowl launch. But the road to the unique Quesalupa experience wasn’t easy. 

The development of the Quesalupa took the Tyson Foods and Taco Bell teams about three years and 2,100 hours filled with innovative thinking and hundreds of prototype samples. 

“As a long-time supplier of ‘out-of-the-shell’ products for Taco Bell, the Tyson Foods R&D team thrives on the opportunity to innovate wildly, and the Quesalupa clearly illustrates the business value of this kind of creative partnership,” said Craig Bacon, Senior Vice President of Research & Development at Tyson Foods. “We’re honored to receive Spirit of Innovation Award for the team’s tireless work on this new product.” 

Because the Quesalupa is unlike any tortilla, a creative approach was needed to seal the cheese between two tortillas. R&D and Operations teams worked together to design and build unique equipment to produce the Quesalupa by hand, and about 700 employees, a 30 percent increase in staffing across four Tyson Foods plants, were hired to create the new innovation.

The Prepared Foods and Ventura Foods Spirit of Innovation Awards recognizes formulators’ exemplary teamwork and new product achievements on the basis of originality, demonstrated teamwork and demonstrated sales success.