February 28, 2024

Arch West, Who Helped Create Doritos Corn Chips, Is Dead at 97

Mr. West, who died on Sept. 20 at the age of 97, was a leader of the team at Frito-Lay that developed Doritos corn chips, a Southwestern-inspired alternative to the traditional salted potato or corn chip.

Though the company, Frito-Lay North America, declines to give Mr. West full credit for the chip — “as a company, there’s never one person to invent or is the father or mother of a given product,” said Aurora Gonzalez, a spokeswoman — others do.

“He widely gets the credit for Doritos,” Andrew F. Smith, the author of the Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006), said in an interview.

Today, Doritos are Frito-Lay’s second-best seller, after Lays Potato Chips, both nationally and around the world, with total sales of nearly $5 billion annually.

Mr. West died at a hospital near his home in Dallas, his daughter, Jana Hacker, said. By her account, her father got the idea for Doritos in the early 1960s when he was vice president of marketing for what was then the Frito Company. (It is now a division of PepsiCo.) The family, while on vacation in San Diego, stopped at “a little shack restaurant where these people were making a fried corn chip,” she said.

The chip’s tangy taste captured her father’s attention. Back in Dallas, after Frito merged with the H. W. Lay Company, he promoted the Doritos’ production, which began in 1964, using corn tortillas cut into triangles and seasoned with cheese and chili flavorings.

“The ’50s were very boring and bland in terms of snack foods, so this was a taste sensation,” Mr. Smith said. “It came out at just the right time, when Mexican-American food was breaking out of the Southwest and increasingly becoming national cuisine.” In 1962, Glen W. Bell Jr. had opened in Downey, Calif., the first of what would become an international chain of Taco Bell restaurants.

The flavorings associated with Doritos “were Mexican-ish,” Mr. Smith said. “No one in Mexico would have consumed such a product, unless they were catering to American tourists.” Still, he added, “Doritos have been popular for almost half a century, so it’s been an incredible invention.”

Archibald Clark West was born in Indianapolis on Sept. 8, 1914, to James and Jessie West. After graduating from Franklin College, near Indianapolis, he served as a gunnery officer in the Navy during World War II. Before joining Frito in 1960, he had worked in advertising in New York.

Besides his daughter, Mr. West is survived by three sons, Jack, Richard and Greg; 12 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. His wife of 50 years, the former Charlotte Thomson, died last year.

When their ashes are buried together on Saturday, their daughter said, “We’re going to let everyone toss in a Dorito.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=44740b34df188cc9edb7405840e4d1a7

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