Along with Coke and Peanut M&Ms, Doritos are one of the few perfect junk foods ever made for mankind. Hats off to their creator, Arch West, who died last week at the age of 97.
When I was an assistant in Los Angeles, I used to spend entire days in my car driving from one miserable errand to the next accompanied only by my iPod, a coke and a snack-sized bag of Doritos.
Because of my choice of snack foods, I often found myself at Neiman Marcus or in a meeting with my fingers and face stained with greasy orange cheese residue which, no matter how hard I tried, often ended up staining a white article of clothing. I always had trash in my car, and most definitely had terrible breath for about three years, but despite those drawbacks, Doritos have remained my favorite junk food.
Everyone who feels similarly should take a moment to honor their creator Arch West, who died in Dallas last week at the impressive age of 97. West will be buried with Doritos, which will be tossed on top of his casket before being covered with dirt, where they will almost certainly biodegrade after West’s body.
Beside being undeniably satisfying and way tastier than any potato chip, Funion type thing or pretzels (which don’t even deserve to be in the same category), Doritos are an American classic—a status only achieved with a universally good product and decades of relentless, manipulative marketing.
Doritos, created in 1964 by Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo, INC, were originally “taco-flavored,” and named after the word “doradito,” which means “little golden” in Spanish. As the delightful chip increased in popularity, Doritos released flavors. Looking back at the ones that stuck, Doritos seemed to perfectly understand the time and audience.
Nacho Cheese, the classic flavor in the red bag, was released in 1972 and continues to be the number-one seller for Doritos. Cool Ranch, in its jazzy blue bag, was released in 1986, perfectly reflecting the “cool” ’80s point of view. Taco Bell and Pizza Hut flavors were added in the ’90s, just in time for the age of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
In the ’90s they also revamped the product to compete in the modern world of large, restaurant-style tortilla chips. After a two-year market research study that involved 5,000 chip eaters, in 1994 the company spent $50 million to redesign the chips, making them 20% larger, 15% thinner, and with rounded corners to reduce crumbs.
So next time you eat a bag of Doritos, say a silent “thank you” to Arch West and remember that a lot of thought and millions of dollars have gone into making your mouth happy and your breath smell like shit.