You would think that everyone of us knows what you should and should not do…
Richard Montañez has been selling the feel-good story since 2007 to end all feel-good stories. As a caretaker at a Frito-Lay facility in Rancho Cucamonga, he has successfully commissioned the company to develop Flamin ‘Hot Cheetos. After seeing an internal video asking all Frito-Lay employees to „act like owners,” he told the CEO that spicy snacks were all the rage in Hispanic neighborhoods and that they were missing from a huge market . He also created his own blend of spices for executives to try. Of course they were a hit, he got promoted to C-suite and now he makes a living from writing memoirs and being a motivational speaker. In fact, it will be portrayed in a new film, produced by Eva Longoria.
According to the LA TimesHowever, the story is mostly a lie. In one massive report released over the weekend that Times Tears up the story meticulously, showing how Flamin ‘Hot Snacks were already in the market when Montañez launched its snack ideas, how Montañez has changed its history over the years, and how confused those involved in developing the Flamin’ Hot Line are as Montañez claimed it was his idea. „We interviewed several employees who were involved in the test market and all of them indicate that Richard was not involved in any capacity in the test market,” Frito-Lay said in a statement.
In fact, the Flamin ‘hotline was the brainchild of some people in Frito-Lay. There was Fred Lindsay, a salesman in the Chicago area who saw spicy snacks and wanted Frito-Lay to get started. There was Sharon Owens, a product manager who worked on developing flavorful snacks. And then there was Lynne Greenfield who came up with the taste, name and original packaging ideas. The snacks came on the test market in 1990, two years before Montañez launched its products in 1992. „It is disappointing that 20 years later someone who was not part of this project would claim our experience as their own and then personally benefit from it,” said Greenfield.
Montañez did not respond to the request for comment on the Timeshe still has has updated his Instagram, @hotcheetosrpm since the piece was published. However, Montañez commented on the allegations to diversityFrito-Lay has worked in various departments and although he may not have had anything to do with what was going on in the Midwest, “I can only tell you what I did. I only have my story of what I did in my kitchen. „He also says of Flamin ‘Hot Cheetos:” I was their greatest ambassador. But I will say this, you will love your company more than ever before. Keep that in mind. „
But even the one man who backed up Montanez’s story, Al Carey, a former Frito-Lay executive, admitted it Times Montañez’s tendency to exaggerate. “I said it was a funny story. This shouldn’t be a controversial story. If you tend to dramatize history a little, you have to stay away from it, ”he said, warning Montañez.
What is true is that Montañez was a machinist at the Rancho Cucamonga plant when he set up a spicy snack for executives in the 90s. The Times Quotes a US news and world report 1993 article that reads, „Montañez broke out with a core of an idea: Flamin ‘Hot Popcorn soon to debut” as part of the existing Flamin’ Hotline. Montañez also worked on the Sabrositas brand, a snack brand specifically aimed at the Latino market.
Frito-Lay began investigating Montañez’s public claims in 2018 when Greenfield emailed a contact to Frito-Lay after seeing a story about Montañez in esquire. Montañez retired in 2019 Times also notes, “Montañez has also posted repeatedly on his social media accounts Photos of what he claims are original design materials for Flamin ‘Hot Cheetos. Many were recently deleted. ”
We should probably all have viewed Montañez’s story with greater skepticism. At least the receipts are open – there are several newsper articles and advertisements confirming the existence of Flamin ‘Hot Cheetos before Montañez said he put the idea on the table. But the imagination is incredible, isn’t it? A Mexican-American man who works in a factory and not only feels empowered to present an idea to a CEO, but actually to be listened to and taken seriously. And that the idea he came up with was something for the Latino community, something that made a massive group of marginalized people feel cared for, felt even better. It’s a story where a Mexican-American man speaks to white executives and makes his shrewd recognition of a market a success.
Flamin ‘Hot Cheetos, which were available over a decade before Taki’s arrival in the US, are now so mainstream that they have caused a legitimate moral panic Children eat too many and being sent to the hospital worried about blood in her stool or ulcers. Flamin ‘Hot Cheetos was also presented in cooperation with KFC, Martin House Brewery, Cook Roy Choiand Thanksgiving turkey among others, and the line has expanded to dust almost every salty snack Frito-Lay offers. We want so badly to burn our stomach lining.
Clearly, Montañez’s story worked because it was largely true. He worked in a factory and moved up to the C-suite. He’s worked on products that target a Latino market – it turns out, not this product. But the real truth – that a spicy product designed to fend off competition from Eagle Snacks was invented by a group of people with business degrees – is just a depressing reminder of how marketing and product development normally work. Well