Hasta La Vista, Senor Doritos

You may (or may not) have heard that Arch West, Frito-Lay snack leader, died September 20, 2011.  The venerable chip wizard, widely credited as the creator of Doritos, was 97.   Not to diminish the nearly half-century of Doritos’ dominance in the chip market, but it is another example of co-opting another culture’s food and selling it back as authentically ethnic — in this case Mexican.  As the urban legend goes, Mr. West and his family were on vacation in San Diego when they stopped at “a little shack restaurant where these people were making a fried corn chip,”  says his daughter Jana Hacker.

Americans already had Fritos corn chips, born in the 1930’s.  Anyone remember the politically incorrect snack mascot “Frito Bandito,” who represented the corn chip from 1967 — 1971 with a jingle from that golden age of marketing?  Perhaps you even had a Frito Bandito eraser for your #2 pencil back in grammar school?   Apparently the Frito-Lay Co. also learned a PR lesson from the Bandito as Doritos never needed no stinkin’ mascot to get us to buy $5B of the chips annually.  Of course, the reach of the Dorito is international as it is the perfect canvas for even more chemically enhanced flavorings.  Please check out Buzzfeed’s comprehensive list of 35 international flavors at the link below:


My personal favorite has to be the mysterious #35. But I cannot help but convey a sense of disappointment in the American snack palette when I look at our domestic list of about 17 unique (TM/Registered) options (not including reduced fat versions), courtesy of the link to Frito-Lay ~  http://www.fritolay.com/our-snacks/doritos.html.   However, I will give the flavor-meisters at Frito Lay props for all their flaming pepper superlatives.

The New York Times today also featured an editorial on the Dorito as “mighty literary device” ~  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/02/opinion/sunday/talking-about-doritos.html?ref=opinion

So Mr. West, we thank you for your contribution to American snack foods, their marketing, and contemporary culture.  Crunch on!


3 thoughts on “Hasta La Vista, Senor Doritos

  1. Anybody remember Fritos’ other mascot, W.C. Fritos? He was a blatant little knockoff of the old timey comedian W.C.Fields – I guess when it became publicly objectionable to make fun of Mexican people (anybody remember those Speedy Gonzalez cartoons? Speedy, himself – “the fastest mouse in all Mexico” – wasn’t so bad, but those pathetic lazy little mice who were always begging him to save them from El Gato were dreadful,) Frito-lay fell back on that reliable stock character, the Fun Drunk. Fang still has a little folk art sculpture that his grandfather made out of a WC Fritos eraser, leaning against a homemade lamppost, mounted on a little balsa wood base.

  2. Ayiyiyi, I am the Frito Bandito! LIove Fritos cornchips, I love them I do! I love Fritos Cornchips, … somethingsomethingsomething with you.

    I don’t remember WC Fritos. I don’t do much to spur the economy, haven’t touched them in years. I buy local taco chips, mostly as a vehicle for salsa, but I do like the new Pop Chips that have suddenly appeared. Are they laced with chemicals? The list of ingredients seems tame enough.

    1. As a decent, enlightened person who does not buy into the ugly sterotype about Latinos as thieves, you’ve sensibly repressed the “bandito” lyrics: “I’ll take Fritos corn chips/ I’ll take them from you.”

      You know what’s a very decent and guiltless vehicle for salsa? Mini rice cakes. I started doing that b/c it’s low in calories, and I’ve found that lovers of junk food who aren’t remotely on a diet start singing “I’ll take them from you.”

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