Frito-Lay is embroiled in drama amid explosive revelations that the origin story of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos – which is the subject of an upcoming film – is false

flamin hot cheetos
PepsiCo and Frito-Lay have made conflicting statements regarding the origin of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

  • Frito-Lay has made conflicting statements about the origins of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
  • Parent company PepsiCo credits former exec Richard Montañez as one of the people involved.
  • But Frito-Lay told the LA Times they cannot find evidence of Montañez’s work.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The humble origins of Frito-Lay’s Flamin’ Hot Cheetos could be a lie.

Richard Montañez, a motivational speaker, credits himself as the creator of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Montañez has crafted a career built upon the story of how he came up with the idea as a janitor at a California Frito-Lay plant in 1976 after immigrating to the US from Mexico.

Montañez has said in interviews that he put chili powder on a Cheeto and told the CEO of Frito-Lay his idea. The product has since become a one of America’s favorite snacks and CNBC reported Montañez eventually became an executive at PepsiCo, the parent company of Frito-Lay. Actress Eva Longoria is directing a movie based on Richard Montañez’s story.

A post shared by Richard Montanez (@hotcheetosrpm)

But a new Los Angeles Times report claims Montañez did not invent Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, according to employees at Frito-Lay, and refutes claims made by Montañez.

Lynne Greenfeld, who was a junior snack food professional at Frito-Lay, said she came up with the name “Flamin’ Hot Cheetos,” and created the product beginning in 1989, per the LA Times. The product entered test markets in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Houston starting in 1990.

Employees at Frito-Lay said they could not recall Montañez meeting with company executives to pitch his idea. The LA Times also notes Roger Enrico – the former CEO of Frito-Lay who Montañez claims to have pitched Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to – did not start as chief executive until six months after the products reached test markets.

Frito-Lay, which the LA Times said never publicly refuted Montañez’s claims until recently, told the paper Montañez was not involved in any part of the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos development.

But Frito-Lay did not deny Montañez’s involvement in creating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to NPR, which ran an episode on the product shortly before LA Times story published.

“He was a part of it. Yes. Sure,” a Frito-Lay spokesperson told NPR’s Sarah Aida Gonzalez. Frito-Lay confirmed the existence of a meeting between Montañez and two company executives in California to NPR, but later walked back their claim after “additional facts were brought to light,” Gonzalez said in a tweet.

Montañez has stood by his story, and said Frito-Lay does not have documentation of his involvement because he was a janitor.

“Nobody was telling me, ‘This is how executives work.’ I wasn’t a supervisor, I was the least of the least,” Montañez told Variety. “I think that might be one of the reasons why they don’t have any documentation on me. Why would they?”

In a May 21 statement to Latin Heat, PepsiCo said they credit the launch and success of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in part to Richard Montañez.

“Richard is an important part of PepsiCo’s history and the success of the company,” the company said. “We regret the confusion that has come from the recent speculation, but most importantly we want Richard to know he is valued and cared for among PepsiCo’s employees and we only wish him happiness and success.”

Frito-Lay and Richard Montañez could not immediately be reached for comment.

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The 10 Super Bowl commercials that generated the most buzz online

Cheetos
  • iSpot provided data on the top Super Bowl commercials trending on social media.
  • Some brands that have advertised in the past are sitting this year out. 
  • Top ads on the list found success by focusing on nostalgia and making the planet a better place.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Even Super Bowl commercials look different this year.

The Super Bowl venue in Tampa, Florida, will be at a fraction of its normal capacity on Sunday — and that’s not the only difference because of the coronavirus pandemic. Even the commercial lineup will look and feel a bit different for those watching the game at home, ad-tracking company Amobee told Insider.

Some brands — like Budweiser, who is skipping the Super Bowl for the first time in nearly 40 years – have decided to forego the game this year. Other companies, like Chipotle and DoorDash, have launched Super Bowl advertising campaigns for the first time.  

Interest in Super Bowl related content is down 10% from last year, according to Amobee analysts.  

“Recent interest in Super Bowl party-related content has barely risen above where it was throughout 2020, confirming that the much-loved American tradition of Super Bowl parties will be forfeited to maintain social distancing,” Amobee brand analyst Avalon Harder told Insider.

Despite the changes, some Super Bowl ads have already begun to pick up steam online. TV ad measurement company, iSpot tracked engagement around the digital content put out by brands ahead of the Super Bowl and compiled a list of the top 10 brands getting the most buzz on social media. 

Many of the commercials that have been trending on the internet focus on nostalgia, whether for old songs, NFL players, or 90’s movies. Other brands captured people’s attention with their focus on social responsibility, as companies like General Motors and Chipotle look to increase sustainability.

Here are some of the brands that have been creating the most buzz, according to iSpot’s data.

10. Cheetos

The Cheetos commercial packs a punch.

The snack company released three Super Bowl teasers for their Crunch Pop Mix ahead of the big game. The saga follows actor Ashton Kutcher as he investigates the case of the missing Cheetos.

Kutcher searches the house for clues regarding the missing snack, while a revamped version of Shaggy ‘s hit song from the early 2000’s, “It Wasn’t Me” plays in the background.

The video ends with Kutcher’s wife, Mila Kunis, telling her husband Shaggy’s catchphrase – “It wasn’t me,” when he confronts her about the snack.

9.  Jimmy John’s

Jimmy John’s ad takes on a mob theme.

The commercial features actor Brad Garrett as Tony Bologavich, a type of sandwhich mob boss, who calls himself the “King of Cold Cuts.”

The mob boss takes on the sandwhich giant with stale bread and cold cuts made out of a science laboratory.

8. Doritos

The Doritos ad is star studded.

The commercial features, Hollywood heavy-hitters including Matthew McConaughey, Mindy Kaling, and Jimmy Kimmel.

The advertisement shows Matthew McConaughey as a two-dimensional character, struggling to lead his life until he eats the company’s 3D Crunch Chili Cheese Nachos.

Doritos has long been known for their Super Bowl commercials. The snack company, owned by Frito Lay, has been a part of game day for nearly 15 years.

7. General Motors

GM’s new commercial focuses on their move toward electric vehicles.

The ad features Will Ferrell, Kenan Thompson, and Awkwafina. It follows Ferrell’s antics as he decides to go after Norway for beating the US in electric vehicle sales.

The Super Bowl ad is just one of many steps that GM has taken to indicate how serious the company is about pursuing electric cars. In January, the company changed its brand logo to highlight their EV future.

6. Doritos

The snack company’s 18-second teaser shows Mindy Kaling on Jimmy Kimmel’s “Our Next Guest is.” 

The ad cuts off with #FlatMatthew. The hashtag is a reference to Doritos other commercial that depicts McConaughey in 2-D.

5. Frito Lay

The snack company’s nearly two minute commercial is jam-packed with NFL legends.

The ad “Twas the Night Before Super Bowl,” has football player, Marshawn Lynch narrating the night before the Big Game.

The video shows numerous Super Bowl legends preparing to watch, including Eli and Peyton Manning, as well as Joe Montana, and Deion Sanders.

4. Uber Eats

Uber Eats focuses on nostalgia and is one of the only commercials on the list to touch on the impact of 2020.

The Uber Eats ad stars Wayne and Garth from the 90’s hit “Wayne’s World.” The two characters reflect on the difficulties of 2020.

The video is the first in a series for Uber Eats featuring the two characters.

“High interest in the appearance of Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World in Uber Eats’ upcoming ad further indicates that audiences are especially in need of the familiar and nostalgic during a period of uncertainty in America,” Harder told Insider.

3. Cheetos

Cheetos’ top commercial focuses on Mila Kunis.

The ad sets up the longer commercial. Kunis gets advice from Shaggy, who tells her to “Just stick to the line I gave you.”

 

2. Chipotle

In its first Super Bowl advertisement the company takes on a lofty goal. 

The little boy who stars in the commercial asks, “Can a Burrito Change the World?”

Chipotle launched the ad as a part of a bigger initiative aiming to focus on sustainable food sources and supporting young farmers.

1. Amazon

Amazon’s commercial turns its own practices on its head – challenging the stereotype that makes most virtual assistants use a feminine voice and persona.

The advertisement “Alexa’s Body,” features Michael B. Jordan in the parody of female personal assistant’s like Alexa and Siri.

Jordan embodies Alexa’s persona in the commercial, showing how the Amazon assistant can do anything from read books outloud to add items to a shopping list.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Jordan shared the Super Bowl ad on social media Wednesday and the video has taken off since then.

 

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