PepsiCo, the owners of the Frito-Lay brand, have come to the defense of former Frito-Lay executive Richard Montañez, who has claimed he was the inventor of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos for the last 20 years.
Holes where poked in Montañez’s story after the L.A. Times ran an investigative piece that quoted Frito-Lay saying that Montañez was not “involved in any capacity in the Flamin’ Hot test market” and that “the facts do not support the urban legend.”
On Friday, PepsiCo said Montañez’s career with PepsiCo was “far from being an urban legend” and that they “attribute the launch and success of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos…to several people…including Richard Montañez.”
They also said the information they shared with the media has been “misconstrued by some.”
“To be clear, we have no reason to doubt the stories he shares about taking the initiative to create new product ideas for the Cheetos brand, and pitching them to past PepsiCo leaders,” PepsiCo’s statement reads.
PepsiCo added that there was also a separate division team developing spicy products for Cheetos that worked independently. “However, just because we can’t draw a clear link between them, doesn’t mean we don’t embrace all of their contributions and ingenuity, including Richard’s.”
Eva Longoria, who is in pre-production for Flamin’ Hot, a film about Montañez life, considered PepsiCo’s statement a win for Montañez and his story. She posted PepsiCo’s statement with the words, “Boom. And the truth shall set you free” in her Instagram story this weekend.
The L.A. Times, too, considered PepsiCo’s statement good for the outlet because it “affirms our reporting.”
“The Times has been in contact with Frito-Lay since the article’s publication,” tweeted Jeff Bercovici, deputy business editor at the Times. “Frito-Lay has not raised any issues with our reporting or sought a correction or clarification.”
In an interview with Variety, Montañez pushed back on Frito-Lay’s statement saying he was their “greatest ambassador.” Flamin’ Hot screenwriter Lewis Colick also told Variety that, “the heart and soul and spirit of the story is true” and that Montañez “is a guy who should remain the face of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.”