How a first-generation immigrant by the name of Richard Montañez created the world’s hottest snack.

Image for post
Image for post

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.

Stranger than fiction by Honey Copy is a curation of stories about bat shit crazy marketing ideas that have made brands some serious cheddar. If this story made your mouth water, why not let me tell you when I write the next one?

Written by

I write pretty words and sometimes sell things.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store