Frito-Lay’s beloved cheesy snack, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, is everywhere and has been for quite some time. The crunchier, spicier sister to the OG puffs have grown from being just a pass-around, finger-licking food item in first period to an undefeated pop-culture phenomenon.
The brain behind the explosive invention is Richard Montañez, a Cucamonga-born janitor who spent his downtime learning the business in the mid-1980s, a Twitter user wrote about Montañez’s story. Eventually, his initiative landed him a meeting with Frito-Lay’s CEO, where he pitched a product inspired by Mexican elote that caters to Latinos.
If you’ve ever tasted Flamin’ Hot Cheetos then you know how the story ends, but most importantly, Montañez became a VP and amassed a $20 million fortune.
5) Richard made it his mission to be the best janitor Frito-Lay had ever seen.
He spent his off-time learning about the company's products, manufacturing, marketing and more. He even asked salesmen to tag along and watch them sell.
— Ankith Harathi (@ankithharathi) December 22, 2020
Nowadays, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are so insanely addictive and recognizable that the red crumbs, brightly colored logo and fiery flavor have weaved themselves into lifestyle brands, music culture, and of course, social media.
In the summer of 2019, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos’ popularity reached fever pitch. That’s when Forever21 partnered with the hottest brand and created a capsule collection of tees, swimwear, makeup, and beach towels, among other apparel. By the end of that same year, TikTok foodies and faux-chefs used the snack as its latest ingredient for fried pickles, mozzarella sticks, donuts, and other meals that looked gross but tasted pretty good (from what we’ve heard).
It didn’t stop there.
Since its launch, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos has inspired a pop-up restaurant, caused an uproar on eBay (thanks to a Harambe-shaped Cheeto), and the entire story of the bold-flavored snack’s beginnings is headed for the silver screen.
Believe it or not, billion-dollar ideas are thrown around every day. It’s most likely that idea that nags at you while you’re on the phone with friends, playing ball, while in a smoking cipher, or just about wherever your mind is encouraged to think outside the box.
Whether or not that idea comes to life depends upon your belief in your invention. Please believe that if you act on the random thought that zips around in your mind, there’s a chance you could change pop culture forever.