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Flamin' Hot Cheetos' disputed origin story: Richard Montañez goes from factory floor to boardroom
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A red-hot controversy is heating up over Richard Montañez's rags-to-riches tale of his purported creation, Flamin' Hot Cheetos.
Montañez – who has become known as the "Godfather of Hispanic marketing" in promotional circles – grew up in what he says was the poorest section of Guasti, Calif., and never received a high school diploma.
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Despite his Horatio Alger-like story, his claim that he is the creator of a multibillion-dollar product, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, detailed in his new book, "Flamin Hot. The Incredible True Story of One Man's Rise from Janitor to Top Executive," is causing controversy in the snack world.
If you ask PepsiCo, which owns Frito-Lay, the origin of its brand doesn't fall entirely on Montañez. Instead, it attributes "the launch and success of Flamin Hot Cheetos and other products to several people who worked at PepsiCo" at the time, the company told FOX Business in a statement.
The two competing versions — one from Montañez and another from PepsiCo regarding who deserves the credit — are stirring up so much buzz, even Hollywood is eyeing it for a film, according to Variety.
As Montañez tells it, it is the very snack that catapulted him from his role as a janitor working on the ground floor of the Frito-Lay factory in California to the director of multicultural marketing and sale for the United States.
To get there, Montañez recalls having to "act like an owner" – not just a janitor.
"Here I am, an uneducated Latino, working the lowest job in a factory and I call the highest-level executive, the CEO. And together we became friends and we changed the company," Montañez told FOX Business.