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!