A quick Google search will tell you that Richard Montañez is one of the most impactful LatinX stories, of our time. He created something that became not just a snack food but an idea that melted two cultures to create a cult favorite.
What’s The Story?
Richard Montañez was raised in a migrant labor camp as 1 of 10 siblings. In 1976, he dropped out of school. Like other kids in his neighborhood, he hoped to get a good gig at a factory near his neighborhood. He felt lucky when he started working at 18 years old, as a janitor in the Frito-Lay factory in Rancho Cucamonga, Ca.
The president of Frito–Lay, Roger Enrico, was always pushing employees to think like an owner and in that Montañez saw his opportunity to change his trajectory. He listened intently and looked around.
The Time of Opportunity
His gran oportunidad came when a machine broke down. The Cheetos were left without their bright orange trademark color and so Montañez took some home and started adding in Mexican spices – that reminded him of a favorite Mexican snack – Ésquite (Mexican Corn). This idea and constant testing led to the beginning of an invention – The Flaming Hot Cheetos.
Here’s the most inspiring part of all of this: Montañez didn’t know how to bring it up to the president. In fact, he is constantly quoted as saying he was “nervous”. He had seen other folks do presentations but he had no experience in it.
How Did He Do It?
And so he did what his community taught him and he got creative and spoke to the soul of the CEO. He picked up the phone and pitched the idea to Roger Enrico who encouraged him to bring it to the executives and so he pursued information on how to present his idea by going to the local library and reading business marketing books!
One day he arrived at Frito-Lay, with a strategy and a sample of his product. He presented to the executives and they LOVED it so much, they put it into production. Montanez’s idea is noted as contributing to the rejuvenation of the Frito-Lay brand. It also created a billion-dollar revenue stream for the company.
Montañez became the Vice President of multicultural sales and community promotions for PepsiCo. He is now a motivational speaker and leadership instructor. He has two books under his belt: A Boy, a Burrito, and a Cookie and Flamin’ Hot: The Incredible True Story of One Man’s Rise from Janitor to Top Executive…..And most importantly, there is also a movie rumored to be in the works about his life trajectory – which will be an AWESOME watch!
Interesting Fact: It’s no surprise that “Los Chetos” is a cult favorite and Spoon University surfaced a study, where medical professionals have compared it to a “mild opiate addiction”. The most interesting explanation from the study was that the burning sensation one gets from the peppers in “Los Chetos” causes a natural release of endorphins in our body. It makes one feel good for a short time and creates the craving for more.