Tom Ryan, who previously worked for Pizza Hut and McDonald’s, helped develop a number of products at the fast food chains.

Pizza Hut’s stuffed crust pizza, 1995

“Over the years, I realized two things: One, people can never have enough cheese on their pizza, and two, most people feed their crust to their dogs,” Ryan said. “So I thought, what if we took the most valuable part of the pizza — the cheese — and combine it with the most undervalued part of the pizza — the crust?”

It took about a year to develop the product.

McDonald’s fruit and yogurt parfait, 2000

“We were focused a lot on breakfast during my time at McDonald’s,” said Ryan, who worked at the company from 1997 to 2003. “Everything we had was bacon-this and sausage-that. It was salty, meaty, eggy, but there was nothing for people looking for something sweeter or lighter.”

The challenge, he said, was to create something that people could carry in their hands and eat on the go. And there was one other hurdle: “Most Americans didn’t like the taste of yogurt back then,” Ryan said. “So we said, okay, let’s make it look like a dessert.”

McDonald’s McGriddles, 2003

“McDonald’s used to offer a pancake breakfast, but it was difficult to eat — you needed a fork and knife, the syrup got messy, it wasn’t practical for people who ate on the go,” Ryan said. “So we thought, ‘How can we put a pancake breakfast in peoples’ hands?’”

— Abha Bhattarai