The fascinating (yet heavily disputed) story of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos

Have you ever wondered where the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos come from? It is a very interesting story involving a janitor, and cheeseless Cheetos (could you believe that?). The validity of it, however, is disputed by both journalists and former Cheetos executives. It’s up for debate whether this is the real deal or just something from legends. Without further ado, we give you the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos story.

A Grape-picker turned Janitor

From a Mexican Family, Montañez’s spent his formative years in Guasti, California, a tiny farming community 40 miles east of Los Angeles. As a boy, he struggled with school as he “couldn’t speak English”. The bus was eventually replaced with a work truck, and he began working in the grape fields, scrounging together a meagre living to make ends meet.

It paid many multiples of what Montañez made in the fields, and it provided him with benefits, insurance, and social mobility. It presented a better life. Since the then 18-year-old was unable to read or write, he asked his wife for assistance in filling out the application.

Act Like a CEO

Roger Enrico, the company’s then-CEO, recorded a video message and shared it with 300k employees to boost morale. Enrico encouraged employees at the organization to behave like owners. Despite most employees brushing it off as another piece of corporate fluff, Montañez decided to take that seriously.

In a shop, Montañez found Frito-Lays products were all plain: Lay’s, Fritos, Ruffles. He discovered Mexican spices right beside the chips.

On one shift, he decided to pick up some Cheetos that had not yet been dusted with cheese while working late at the factory one night. His wife helped him cover them in a mixture of chilli powder and other “secret” spices at home.

The Flamin’ Hot Cheeto

After developing the snack, Montañez called Enrico, the CEO, and told him about the gap in the market. After studying the company’s products, he identified a demand in the market and even crafted rudimentary snacks in his kitchen. 2 weeks later, Enrico showed up in the Rancho Cucamonga plant, after demanding a presentation from Montañez.

Once in the meeting, Montañez gave his presentation. When asked about the market share that Flamin’ Hot Cheetos could control, he realized he didn’t know what he was talking about. Montañez opened his arms and said, “this much market share.” When the CEO stood up and smiled, the room went silent, and shortly after, they promoted him from his janitorial role.

30 years on and this wonderful snack is still one of the most beloved American icons of all time. And yes, Richard Montañez might’ve not created the snack, but this Hollywood-like story gives everyone something to dream about. You can also have your tastebuds California dreamin’ with our range of Flamin’ Hot snacks, as well as our American Snacks & Chips.


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