What You Should Know Before Eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Again

What’s the real story behind Flamin’ Hot Cheetos,
the spicy snack food that’s taking over America? How did they come to be, and why are they
so popular? The true story behind Flamin’ Hot Cheetos
might surprise you. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos were the brainchild of
Richard Montañez, and unlike most snack-food creators, he was no lab coat-wearing food
scientist. He was a janitor at a Frito-Lay plant, but
was also interested in how the business was run, especially after a company-wide message
from the CEO encouraging each employee to act like an owner of the company to feel personally
invested in its success. That inspired Montañez to think outside the
box. One day, the machine that made Cheetos accidentally
spit out a batch that was totally unseasoned. Montañez took them home and did some experimentation. He had noticed that Cheetos didn’t have any
spicy flavors, so he seasoned the plain corn puffs he had gotten with spices and chili
powder. He then, boldly, called the CEO of the company,
who was so impressed by Montañez’s initiative that he set up a meeting for him to present
his invention. The CEO was sold, and within six months, Flamin’
Hot Cheetos were being tested. In 1992, they were released nationally. The snack became legendary, and these days,
Montañez is the VP of multicultural sales for PepsiCo, the parent company of Frito-Lay. Not only was Montañez a janitor, but he was
also a high school dropout. Growing up, he found it difficult to understand
his teachers at school. English wasn’t his first language, and he
didn’t have an easy time learning it. As a result, he decided to drop out of high
school, and soon after entered the workforce. Aspirations weren’t very high in his small
community outside of Ontario, California. Most of his peers only hoped to grow up and
work in the town’s factory, which is exactly where he ended up. Montañez had different dreams for himself
though: He wanted to drive a garbage truck. That wasn’t meant to be, of course, but the
janitor job he ended up with took him farther than any trash truck could have.Today, Montañez
helps provide college scholarships for young Latinos. He explained to Fox News Latino, “Latinos who have made it like myself have
a responsibility to open doors to younger generations and teach them that they can do
it.” Richard Montañez knew he had a great idea
on his hands when he realized that, in the snack aisle of his local convenience store,
there weren’t any products marketed to the Latino people who frequented it. Montañez, the son of Mexican immigrants,
suddenly found inspiration. When Montañez was enjoying some elotes, he
decided that the combination of cheese and chili powder would also taste great on Cheetos. Montañez said that at the time, “Nobody had given any thought to the Latino
market…But everywhere I looked, I saw it ready to explode.” The product went on to be a huge success,
Montañez moved his way up the ranks at PepsiCo. Not only has he worked with PepsiCo brands
including KFC and Taco Bell to help them market to consumers in the Latin community, but he
also does community outreach and works to help students of Latin American heritage go
to college. “Some of you, sometimes, are waiting for someone
to say, ‘I give you permission to be great.’ If you’re waiting for that day, then guess
what, I’m giving you permission to be great.” The story of how Richard Montañez invented
Flamin’ Hot Cheetos is pretty cinematic. A janitor who couldn’t read inventing a multi-million
dollar product and going on to become a vice president at PepsiCo? Think of the drama: the formulation of the
idea, the bold call to the CEO, the nerve-racking first presentation, and joy of his success. It’s a story that has everything, and Hollywood
seems to agree, because there’s going to be a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos movie. The film will trace the story of Montañez’s
life, from family farm hand and elementary school burrito salesman, to janitor, inventor,
and businessman. The movie, Flamin’ Hot, is set to be directed
by Eva Longoria, who may be best known for her role as Gabrielle on Desperate Housewives,
but has also directed several short films and episodes of TV shows including Jane the
Virgin. Longoria expressed her excitement about the
project on Twitter, where she said, “It’s my privilege…to bring the story of
Flamin Hot Cheetos (which we all love!) to life!” If you’ve ever felt the urge to keep eating
Hot Cheetos until they’re gone, it’s not just you. The chemical makeup of Cheetos really does
trick the brain into wanting more. Some of it has to do with their texture. Apparently, the puffy, melt-in-your-mouth
texture of Cheetos tricks the brain into thinking that the food is low-calorie, a phenomenon
called “vanishing caloric density.” That means your brain doesn’t stop you from
eating it because it doesn’t seem like substantial food. Another hypothesis is that Flamin’ Hot Cheetos
are what’s called “hyperpalatable,” thanks to their combination of sugar, salt, and fat. Eating those foods can cause the body to release
natural opiates, opioids generated by your body, or endorphins, and the capsaicin in
the chili powder used to season Flamin’ Hot Cheetos can apparently maximize the opiate
release when you eat them. A handful of school districts in three states,
California, Illinois, and New Mexico, have banned Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, both because they
aren’t nutritious, and because they, quote, “may create a brain response similar to what
is seen in individuals who are addicted to illicit substances.” Kids have reported gastrointestinal distress,
and some have gone to the ER after eating the fiery red snack food and seeing what they
thought was blood in their stool, only to discover that the red dye in the Cheetos caused
the discoloration. “So these kids are eating them, and they’re
having a lot of pain. It’s because the amount of acid is more than
the stomach, and also the esophagus, can handle.” Though the red dye itself isn’t harmful, some
doctors worry that it’s a sign children are over-eating the “hyperpalatable” snack. A doctor at St. Louis Children’s Hospital
explained, “Our stool doesn’t usually become discolored
unless you eat huge amounts of [red dye, but] Flamin’ Hot Cheetos is one food that people
will eat enormous amounts of and will see a change in their stool.” Frito-Lay doesn’t sell products directly to
schools, and it doesn’t actively market snacks to kids ages 12 and under, but that hasn’t
stopped kids from getting their hands on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, so for some schools, the ban
felt necessary. Kids may not know about the nutritional value,
or lack thereof, of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, but even adults can’t seem to stop themselves
from binging on the crunchy, spicy, salty snack. Just look at rapper Lil Xan. He ended up in the hospital in September of
2018 because, according to a since-deleted Instagram post, “I guess I ate too many hot Cheetos, and it
ripped something in my stomach open.” Lil Xan added that he apparently vomited some
blood and that Hot Cheetos are, quote, “a hell of a drug.” There was some speculation as to whether or
not eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos could actually send someone to the hospital, and conspiracy
theorizing that the whole thing was one big marketing campaign. While it’s rare that eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos
could, on its own, cause a tear in the stomach, some doctors confirmed that if someone already
has digestive issues, eating spicy foods of any kind can make them worse. If Lil Xan had an ulcer or some other previously
existing stomach condition, then yes, eating a ton of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or another super-spicy
food could do some damage, but healthy people who are eating their favorite spicy snack
food in moderation shouldn’t have to worry about it. In 2017, Cheetos opened The Spotted Cheetah
in New York City, a pop-up restaurant helmed by celeb chef Anne Burrell. The food wasn’t your usual “pour gas station
nacho cheese into a bag of hot Cheetos” concoctions, but rather an upscale look at how they can
be incorporated into more sophisticated takes on comfort food dishes. In 2018, a second Flamin’ Hot Cheetos pop-up,
The Flamin’ Hot Spot, set up shop in Hollywood. It was even more flashy, with bad-boy restaurateur
Roy Choi in charge of the menu. It featured dishes like a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos-crusted
chicken wings, Cheetos Crunchy Xxtra Flamin’ Hot Sweet N’ Spicy Chili Meatballs, Flamin’
Hot Cheetos Elotes in a nice nod to the legendary origins of the snack, and even a Flamin’ Hot
Cheetos-infused chocolate shake. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos have made appearances
in more casual restaurants, too. There are entire guides showing hungry diners
where they can get some Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in their meal in Los Angeles, and for a while
Taco Bell was serving up Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Crunchwrap Sliders, proof that it’s a more
versatile ingredient than one might think. A collaboration between the Cheetos brand
and fashion company Forever 21 turned up the sartorial heat when it debuted in June of
2019. Cheetos x Forever 21 is a 21-item apparel
collection featuring all sorts of accessories for those who are willing to suffer through
the spicy bliss of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Though some of the items are inspired by the
plain jane Cheetos, other items sport red flames in honor of the spicier snack. There were joggers with a “Flamin’ Hot” design
down the side, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos crew socks, a Flamin’ Hot bodysuit, a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos
tube dress, and a selection of trendy Leopard print, or should we say Cheetah print, clothes. Unfortunately, not even a spicy line of Flamin’
Hot clothing could save Forever 21. In the fall of 2019, Forever 21 announced
it was closing 7,000 stores and wound up filing for bankruptcy protection. A few pieces from the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos
line were still being sold in stores and online as of early 2020, though not everything was
still available on the Forever 21 website. But at least you know there’s always eBay. Hopefully a second-hand pair of Cheetos socks
doesn’t end up costing as much as the Cheeto purportedly shaped like highly-memed gorilla
Harambe, which almost sold for nearly $100,000 before the seller backed out. In another viral campaign, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos
decided to hit the runway at New York Fashion Week in 2019, with a debut collection from
the “House of Flamin’ Haute.” The collection was curated by fashion influencers
Luanna, Hungry Hipsters, Alexa Jade, and J. Bolin, and costume designer Ami Goodheart
closed out the show. Everything at the show, from the models’ hair
and makeup to their accessories and clothes, was inspired by the Flamin’ Hot snack. The clothing on the runway featured lots of
bold reds and oranges, and no one shied away from the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos logos. Some models even had cheetah print dyed hair,
in honor of Chester Cheetah, himself a fashion icon. The night wasn’t just about watching the fashion
show, though. For guests, there were small bites and cocktails
infused with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and there was even a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos style bar where
fans could get their makeup and nails done in the Flamin’ Haute style. Red eyeliner, powdery orange nails, and cheetah
print hair were the looks of the night. The man behind Flamin’ Hot Cheetos didn’t
stop at just changing the world of snacks. Now, he’s made it his mission to change the
world. Richard Montañez travels the country as a
public speaker, addressing the importance of multiculturalism and diversity in industry. It’s no surprise that many conferences and
companies seek to have Montañez as a speaker. Not only can he speak to the importance of
valuing all employees, regardless of race or origin, but also to the importance of hard
work, persistence, and just plain putting yourself out there. Montañez didn’t limit his goals based on
his background, and he’s made it his job to make sure that today’s youth don’t either. “I’ve got something to say, and I want to
say it to the young people.” His work has also garnered him several awards
and recognitions, including being named as one of the most influential Hispanics in corporate
America by Hispanic Lifestyle magazine. Montañez has also been invited to the White
House on several occasions, and has presented at a special United Nations event. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Mashed videos about your favorite
snacks are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
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