Arch West, Inventor of the Dorito, Dead at 97

Sep 27, 2011 | 0 comments

Ashes to ashes, crunch to crunch. Arch West, a Frito-Lay executive who created the Dorito after sampling greasy fried tortilla chips while on a 1964 family vacation in Southern California, died on September 20, 2011. He was 97. At least in his case, junk food did not kill him, vascular surgery complications did. (Or perhaps the fact that he was OLD).

Mr. West’s cremated remains will be placed in an urn and buried in a vault, his daughter Jana Hacker said. At a memorial service, family members will dust his grave with a layer of Doritos. Love that element of personalization!

In today’s Washington Post, there’s a great obituary and an ode to Doritos. Some samples are below (betcha can’t read just one).

Arch West, 97, invented Doritos for Frito-Lay

By T. Rees Shapiro, Published: September 26

Arch West, a Frito-Lay executive who invented the crunchy, triangular tortilla chips known as “Doritos,” a fingertip-licking snack of choice for legions of couch-lounging football fans, highway-cruising truck drivers and munchie-craving college kids, died Sept. 20 at a hospital in Dallas. He was 97.He had complications from vascular surgery, said his daughter, Jana Hacker.

(Family Photo/FAMILY PHOTO) – Arch West, inventor of the Doritos chips.

Mr. West had worked as a traveling cheese salesman and Madison Avenue advertising manager handling the Jell-O account before he had a chip epiphany.

He was on a family vacation in Southern California in 1964 when he first bought a grease-smeared bag of toasted tortillas at a roadside shack.

As marketing vice president at Frito-Lay, Mr. West immediately sensed he had stumbled upon a snacking phenomenon.

When he returned to work, Mr. West pitched his idea: a crispy, triangle-shaped corn chip that would complement the company’s lighter Lay’s potato chip and the thicker, curly Frito.

The original toasted corn chips were released nationally in 1966 and marketed under the Spanish-sounding name “Doritos.” An early television commercial for Doritos called them “a swinging, Latin sort of snack.”

Doritos emerged as a nationwide hit and have become one of Frito-Lay’s best-selling snack foods, enjoyed by young and old.

According to the 2006 Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food, Doritos are sold in 20 countries. (The “Doritos” entry is below “Domino’s Pizza” and above “Doughnuts.”)

In the 52-week period ending last February, more than 924 million bags of Doritos were sold in America, said Chris Clark, a spokesman for the Snack Food Association.

A Doritos spokeswoman, Aurora Gonzalez, wrote in an e-mail that global sales of Doritos tortilla chips in 2010 were nearly $5 billion.

Bags of Doritos now come in flavors such as 3rd Degree Burn Scorchin’ Habanero, Pizza Supreme, and Blazin’ Buffalo and Ranch.

Mr. West ate Doritos his entire life and was sometimes sent batches to taste-test. About three months ago, he tried a new flavor, Late Night All Nighter Cheeseburger.

Mr. West took one bite and spit it out.

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