In the summer of 1962, a man named Arch West took his wife and three kids on a trip to Southern Califorina. West was a VP at Frito-Lay, and somewhere north of San Diego, he tasted a tortilla chip for the first time. The experience changed his life, and it also changed your life.
Tortilla chips, Arch West thought, just might be Frito-Lay’s next big thing.
Back in Dallas, Frito-Lay disagreed. The world was happy with Fritos. Who needed tortilla chips?
But Arch West was so confident about the future of tortilla chips that he secretly funneled discretionary funds to an off-site facility to develop the tortilla chip concept. He pitched his idea again. This time he handed out samples. And this time, he had a name: Doritos.
It did the trick. West got the green light.
The rest, however, is not history. You see, the Doritos that hit store shelves in 1964 were just salted tortilla chips exactly like the ones West tasted back in California. And people weren’t impressed.
So once again, Mr. West found himself facing his fellow executives over his new snack—a snack he wasn’t even supposed to develop and that wasn’t catching on. But West had #GrowthMindset. He didn’t give up. Instead, he uttered the word that changed everything: “Taco.” He wanted Doritos to taste like a “taco.”
His fellow executives sneered. They chided him for “not knowing the difference between a ‘thing’ and a ‘flavor.’ ” But West was one step ahead of them. He knew there was new technology called “flavorings” that let you make anything you wanted taste like whatever you wanted it to taste like.
And when Frito-Lay added taco flavorings to Doritos, people went nuts for them. Four years later Nacho Cheese Doritos launched. Cool Ranch followed in 1986.
The world would never be the same.
Let’s think about that for a moment. We think the problem with food is calories. We’re addicted to carbs. We can’t resist those enticing combinations of salt, sugar and fat.
But nutritionally speaking, taco flavored Doritos are exactly the same as the plain ones. Same amount of carbs. Same amount of fat. Even the same amount of salt.
It wasn’t the nutrients that made people eat them, it was “flavorings.” A microscopic dusting of flavor chemicals made millions and millions and millions of people have the same thought: this is delicious! It turned a snack that people didn’t want to eat into a snack they couldn’t stop eating.
Flavor is the incentive to eat. And when we mastered flavor technology, we mastered the art of making people eat. The obesity epidemic was inevitable.
This atomistic view of flavor is called The Dorito Effect, and it’s the real story of what happened to food.
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