How a first-generation immigrant by the name of Richard Montañez created the world’s hottest snack.
Richard Montañez, a first-generation Mexican immigrant, stopped going to school in the fourth grade to work odd jobs like washing cars, pulling weeds and slaughtering chickens to pull his weight in a fourteen person family confined to a single-room cinderblock abode in the sweltering hot Cucamonga Valley.
Eventually, Montañez heard through the grapevine that Frito-Lay was hiring and with the help of his wife he filled out an application (he couldn’t read nor write) and landed a job as a janitor at the snack food giant making two to three times more than what he had ever made in his life.
“… let them know that a Montañez mopped it.”
For the next decade, Montañez worked his ass off to be the best janitor Frito-Lay ever had, remembering a piece of advice his grandfather gave him before he started his first day on the job…
“Make sure that floor shines and let them know that a Montañez mopped it.”
As the years passed, sales began to slow at Frito-Lay and the CEO sent out a company-wide email encouraging every employee to behave like an owner.
While most everyone shrugged off the email as rah-rah-rah corporate bullshit, Montañez saw it as an opportunity to put bucket the mop for good.
He began educating himself on Frito-Lay’s business, watching how the machines churned out snacks and asking to tag along on sales runs.
One day, while he was shadowing a salesman doing a restock in a local corner-store, he looked at the shelves and realized Frito-Lay wasn’t selling anything with “kick”.
So, he added some.
Later while working a night shift, Montañez took home a few un-dusted Cheetos and with the help of his wife dusted them in his own recipe of spices… a recipe that gave the Cheeto a bit of kick.
Long story longer, Montañez called the CEO and told him about his idea… a spicier Cheeto. Intrigued the CEO asked him to put together a sales pitch.
Montañez bought a $3 tie, copy and pasted some text from a book on marketing strategies, created his own packaging with a custom design and as a first-generation immigrant janitor unable to write or read English he presented to Frito-Lay’s CEO the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto; a snack that would go on to become a multi-billion dollar asset for the company.
Today, Montañez is the vice president of multicultural sales for PepsiCo America.
By Cole Schafer.