Richard Montanez: Flamin’ Hot Innovator

The Washington Post: “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos — the spicy red version of the classic cheese-flavored snack — are something of a cultural phenomenon … They were invented by a janitor, the son of a Mexican immigrant who dropped out of school because he struggled with English … His name is Richard Montañez, and Fox Searchlight Pictures is making a movie about his life … When he was about 12 years old in 1976, Montañez landed a job working as a janitor at a California Frito-Lay plant. One day, as he told Lowrider magazine, he saw a company-wide video of then-CEO Roger Enrico saying, ‘We want every worker in this company to act like an owner. Make a difference. You belong to this company, so make it better’.”

“Montañez took these words to heart … As he tells it, one day an assembly line at the plant where he worked broke down. A batch of Cheetos didn’t receive the orange, cheesy dust that make them so popular. So he took a few home to experiment. He had formed an idea while watching a street vendor in his neighborhood make elote, or grilled Mexican street corn — corn on the cob covered in cheese, butter, lime and chili. ‘What if I took the same concept and applied it to a Cheeto?’ he thought, according to his memoir.”

“So he did. His friends and family loved the result. Thinking back to the video and figuring he had nothing to lose, he decided to call Enrico to pitch the idea. Enrico took his call and told Montañez to present his product in two weeks … Against all odds, it worked. Enrico loved the idea, and a new line of spicy snack food was born — with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos as its flagship. Montañez has since served in various positions throughout the company, including as an executive vice president.”


Your Thoughts?