11 Bold Facts About Doritos

No matter how many bags of Nacho Cheese or Cool Ranch Doritos you’ve munched your way through, you might not know everything about the snack juggernaut.


The exact origins of Doritos are a little murky, but at least one story has pinpointed the location of the chip's beginnings as the happiest place on Earth. In its early days, Disneyland featured a Mexican restaurant based around another hugely popular corn chip. The Casa de Fritos offered tamales, enchiladas, and, of course, bags of Fritos. As author Gustavo Arellano recounts in Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, in the early 1960s a sales rep for Alex Foods, which supplied the Casa de Fritos with its wholesale ingredients, saw cooks throwing out unwanted tortillas. The rep told the cooks that in the future they should save the tortillas and fry them into chips. 

Patrons liked the improvised chips so much that they went on the menu. As the story goes, the next year, Frito-Lay marketing executive Arch West visited the restaurant, saw how popular the tortilla chips were, and started planning a national rollout for the snacks. 


While the Disneyland angle is intriguing, when West passed away in 2011, his obituaries told a less Disney-intensive story. The Washington Post doesn’t mention Disneyland, simply saying, “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.” Similarly, the New York Times quoted West’s daughter, Jana Hacker, who remembered a vacation to San Diego and a stop at “a little shack restaurant where these people were making a fried corn chip.” 


Wherever West got the idea, he made the most of it. He sold his bosses at Frito-Lay on marketing the toasted corn chips, and Doritos stormed American shelves in 1966. To give the line more of a Southwestern flair, in 1968 Frito-Lay introduced taco-flavored Doritos. The eventual workhorse of the family, nacho cheese, debuted in 1972, with cool ranch following in 1986


While the mere mention of the word “Doritos” probably conjures visions of neon orange chips, the name originally referred to their un-dusted color and means “little golden things.” 


When Frito-Lay tweaked the nacho cheese variety’s recipe in 1992, it only set out to improve the seasoning’s flavor to create a nacho cheesier future. Instead, it helped the romantic prospects of Doritos devotees. For whatever reason, the reformulated recipe that included more natural cheese also eliminated “Dorito breath,” the unpleasant lingering of snack aromas long after the last chip was gone. 


By 1994, Doritos was raking in $1.3 billion a year, tops in the snack category. Parent company Pepsico didn’t quit while the chips were ahead, though. Instead, Pepsico invested a reported $50 million in what the New York Times called “the costliest redesign in Frito-Lay's history.” The revamped Doritos boasted a stronger flavor, while each chip was 15 percent thinner and 20 percent larger. The new chips also had rounded corners where the previous version had sharp points, a triumph for both eaters and fans of efficiency. Frito-Lay director of corn products Jerry Vogel told the Times, “It's easier to eat them, without the sharp corners. And a lot of the scrap in the bottom of the bag was from the corners breaking off. It was just a waste."


If you’re bored with nacho cheese and cool ranch, break out your passport. Japan has inventive flavors like Tuna Mayonnaise Doritos and Clam Chowder Doritos; Turkish snackers can enjoy Yogurt and Mint Doritos; and Belgium offers Pure Paprika Doritos.


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When Jennifer Lawrence earned an Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress for her work in David O. Russell’s 2013 film American Hustle, at least a few tiny Doritos particles were along for the ride. Costume designer Michael Wilkinson revealed in a discussion panel covered by Vanity Fair that Lawrence had sullied a few of her costumes in the film with smears of Doritos. Wilkinson had made four versions of a revealing white gown Lawrence’s character wears, and during the panel he explained why he was glad he had a few extras: “Jennifer Lawrence is a very ... let’s say ... raw and intuitive young lady, and she’s not against eating Doritos and snack food in her costume.” 

9. Home cooks can make their own Doritos dust. 

Of course, if you’re not on camera, a little Doritos dust can be a great thing. Cooks have embraced the zesty, flavorful possibility of Doritos dust as a seasoning for everything from vegetables to popcorn. Don’t want to buy a bag of Doritos to harvest the dust every time you make dinner? Epicurious has you covered with recipes for both nacho cheese and cool ranch dust. 


When Taco Bell debuted the Doritos Locos Taco in 2012, America’s favorite vaguely Mexican-ish food franchises made fast food history. Diners may have rolled their eyes at the high-concept taco, but they were so intrigued by the idea that they had to give it a try. At its peak, the Doritos Locos Taco was flying out of stores at a rate of a million orange tacos a day. The special proved so popular that it powered strong corporate profits for both Taco Bell and its parent company, Yum Brands. 

Fans of the novelty taco were surely worried in May 2015 when Taco Bell announced it was removing artificial flavors and colors from its foods by the end of the year, but nothing can stop the Doritos Locos Taco. Taco Bell quickly announced that co-branded products wouldn’t be affected by the new policy.


Doritos aren’t even 50 years old, and they’ve already conquered the world snack market. Where can such a successful brand find new customers? Deep space. In 2008, Doritos used a transmitter in the Arctic Circle to send one of its British ads 42 light years away to a solar system in Ursa Major. While the publicity stunt likely didn’t move many bags of chips outside this solar system, New Scientist reported that the agency that operates the station that transmitted the message got a donation from Doritos for playing along.

Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated
A Founder of Earth Day Looks Back on How It Began
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Caruso Affiliated

On the very first Earth Day in 1970, Denis Hayes stood on a stage in Central Park, stunned by the number of people who'd come to honor the planet. Now in his 70s, Hayes remembers it was like looking at the ocean—“you couldn’t see where the sea of people ended.” Crowd estimates reached more than a million people.

For Hayes, who is now board chair of the international Earth Day Network, it was the culmination of a year’s worth of work. As an urban ecology graduate student at Harvard University, he’d volunteered to help organize a small initiative by Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson. Nelson was horrified by the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, and wanted to raise awareness about environmental issues by holding teaching events similar to those being held by civil rights and anti-war activists.

Senator Nelson saw a growing disconnect between the concept of progress and the idea of American well-being, Hayes tells Mental Floss. “There was a sense that America was prosperous and getting better, but at the same time, the air in the country was similar to the air today in China, Mexico City, or New Delhi," Hayes says. "Rivers were catching on fire. Lakes were unswimmable.”

Nelson's plan for these environmental teach-ins was for speakers to educate college students about environmental issues. But he had no one to organize them. So Hayes, Nelson’s sole volunteer, took control on a national level, organizing teach-ins at Harvard first and then across the U.S. Initially, the response was tepid at best. “Rather rapidly it became clear that this wasn’t a hot issue at colleges and universities in 1969,” Hayes says. “We had a war raging, and civil rights were getting very emotional after the Nixon election.”

Still, both Hayes and Nelson noticed an influx of mail to the senator's office from women with young families worried about the environment. So instead of focusing on colleges, the two decided to take a different tactic, creating events with community-based organizations across the country, Hayes says. They also decided that rather than a series of teach-ins, they'd hold a single, nationwide teach-in on the same day. They called it Earth Day, and set a date: April 22.

Hayes now had a team of young adults working for the cause, and he himself had dropped out of school to tackle it full time. Long before social media, the project began to spread virally. “It just resonated,” he says. Women and smaller environmental-advocacy groups really hooked onto the idea, and word spread by mouth and by information passing between members of the groups.

Courtesy of Denis Hayes

With the cooperation and participation of grassroots groups and volunteers across the country, and a few lawmakers who supported the initiative, Hayes’ efforts culminated in the event on April 22, 1970.

Hayes started the day in Washington, D.C., where he and the staff were based. There was a rally and protest on the National Mall, though by that point Hayes had flown to New York, where Mayor John Lindsay provided a stage in Central Park. Parts of Fifth Avenue were shut down for the events, which included Earth-oriented celebrations, protests, and speeches by celebrities. Some of those attending the event even attacked nearby cars for causing pollution. After the rally, Hayes flew to Chicago for a smaller event.

“We had a sense that it was going to be big, but when the day actually dawned, the crowds were so much bigger than anyone had experienced before,” Hayes said. The event drew grassroots activists working on a variety of issues—Agent Orange, lead paint in poor urban neighborhoods, saving the whales—and fostered a sense of unity among them.

“There were people worrying about these [environmental] issues before Earth Day, but they didn’t think they had anything in common with one another," Hayes says. "We took all those individual strands and wove them together into the fabric of modern environmentalism.”

Hayes and his team spent the summer getting tear-gassed at protests against the American invasion of Cambodia, which President Nixon authorized just six days after Earth Day. But by fall, the team refocused on environmental issues—and elections. They targeted a “dirty dozen” members of Congress up for re-election who had terrible environmental records, and campaigned for candidates who championed environmental causes to run against them. They defeated seven out of 12.

“It was a very poorly funded but high-energy campaign,” Hayes says. “That sent the message to Congress that it wasn’t just a bunch of people out frolicking in the sunshine planting daisies and picking up litter. This actually had political chops.”

The early '70s became a golden age for environmental issues; momentum from the Earth Day movement spawned the creation of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Environmental Education Act (which was initially passed in 1970 and revived in 1990), and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We completely changed the framework within which America does business, more than any other period in history with the possible exception of the New Deal,” Hayes says. “But our little revolution was brought entirely from the grassroots up.”

In 1990, Hayes was at it again. He organized the first international Earth Day, with about 200 million participants across more than 140 countries. Since then it’s become a global phenomenon.

Despite its popularity, though, we still have a long way to go, even if the improvements Hayes fought for have made these issues feel more remote. Hayes noted that everything they were fighting in the '70s was something tangible—something you could see, taste, smell, or touch. Climate change can seem much less real—and harder to combat—to the average person who isn’t yet faced with its effects.

Hayes also notes that people have become more skeptical of science. “Historically, that has not been a problem in the United States. But today science is under attack.”

He warns, “This [anti-science sentiment] is something that could impoverish the next 50 generations and create really long-term devastation—that harms not only American health, but also American business, American labor, and American prospects.”

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI
13 Great Jack Nicholson Quotes
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

Jack Nicholson turns 81 today. Let's celebrate with some of the actor's wit and wisdom.


"I hate advice unless I'm giving it. I hate giving advice, because people won't take it."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"


"Not that I can think of. I’m sure there are some, but my mind doesn’t go there. When you look at life retrospectively you rarely regret anything that you did, but you might regret things that you didn’t do."

From an interview with The Talks


"I'm Irish. I think about death all the time. Back in the days when I thought of myself as a serious academic writer, I used to think that the only real theme was a fear of death, and that all the other themes were just that same fear, translated into fear of closeness, fear of loneliness, fear of dissolving values. Then I heard old John Huston talking about death. Somebody was quizzing him about the subject, you know, and here he is with the open-heart surgery a few years ago, and the emphysema, but he's bounced back fit as a fiddle, and he's talking about theories of death, and the other fella says, 'Well, great, John, that's great ... but how am I supposed to feel about it when you pass on?' And John says, 'Just treat it as your own.' As for me, I like that line I wrote that, we used in The Border, where I said, 'I just want to do something good before I die.' Isn't that what we all want?"

From an interview with Roger Ebert


''There's a period of time just before you start a movie when you start thinking, I don't know what in the world I'm going to do. It's free-floating anxiety. In my case, though, this is over by lunch the first day of shooting.''

From an interview with The New York Times


"Almost anyone can give a good representative performance when you're unknown. It's just easier. The real pro game of acting is after you're known—to 'un-Jack' that character, in my case, and get the audience to reinvest in a new and specific, fictional person."

From an interview with The Age


"I never had a policy about marriage. I got married very young in life and I always think in all relationships, I've always thought that it's counterproductive to have a theory on that. It's hard enough to get to know yourself and as most of you have probably found, once you get to know two people in tandem it's even more difficult. If it's going to be successful, it's going to have to be very specific and real and immediate so the more ideas you have about it before you start, it seems to me the less likely you are to be successful."

From an interview with


“You only lie to two people in your life: your girlfriend and the police. Everybody else you tell the truth to.”

From a 1994 interview with Vanity Fair


"They're prescription. That's why I wear them. A long time ago, the Middle American in me may have thought it was a bit affected maybe. But the light is very strong in southern California. And once you've experienced negative territory in public life, you begin to accept the notion of shields. I am a person who is trained to look other people in the eye. But I can't look into the eyes of everyone who wants to look into mine; I can't emotionally cope with that kind of volume. Sunglasses are part of my armor."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"


"I think people think I'm more physical than I am, I suppose. I'm not really confrontational. Of course, I have a temper, but that's sort of blown out of proportion."

From an interview with ESPN


"I'm a different person when suddenly it's my responsibility. I'm not very inhibited in that way. I would show up [on the set of The Two Jakes] one day, and we'd scouted an orange grove and it had been cut down. You're out in the middle of nowhere and they forget to cast an actor. These are the sort of things I kind of like about directing. Of course, at the time you blow your stack a little bit. ... I'm a Roger Corman baby. Just keep rolling, baby. You've got to get something on there. Maybe it's right. Maybe it's wrong. Maybe you can fix it later. Maybe you can't. You can't imagine the things that come up when you're making a movie where you've got to adjust on the spot."

From an interview with MTV


"There's nobody in there, that he didn't, in the most important way support. He was my life blood to whatever I thought I was going to be as a person. And I hope he knows that this is not all hot air. I'm going to cry now."

From the documentary Corman's World


"This would be the character, whose core—while totally determinate of the part—was the least limiting of any I would ever encounter. This is a more literary way of approaching than I might have had as a kid reading the comics, but you have to get specific. ... He's not wired up the same way. This guy has survived nuclear waste immersion here. Even in my own life, people have said, 'There's nothing sacred to you in the area of humor, Jack. Sometimes, Jack, relax with the humor.' This does not apply to the Joker, in fact, just the opposite. Things even the wildest comics might be afraid to find funny: burning somebody's face into oblivion, destroying a masterpiece in a museum—a subject as an art person even made me a little scared. Not this character. And I love that."

From The Making of Batman


"I've always thought basketball was the best sport, although it wasn't the sport I was best at. It was just the most fun to watch. ... Even as a kid it appealed to me. The basketball players were out at night. They had great overcoats. There was this certain nighttime juvenile-delinquent thing about it that got your blood going."

From Esquire's "What I Learned"


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