Arch West, creator of Doritos, dies at 97

Posted Sept. 26, 2011, at 9:14 p.m.

DALLAS — Arch Clark West will have the epitome of a marketing man’s epitaph.

His family plans to sprinkle Doritos at his graveside service Oct. 1 at Restland Memorial Park in Dallas.

West, the retired Frito-Lay executive credited with creating Doritos, died Tuesday of natural causes at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. He was 97.

“We are tossing Doritos chips in before they put the dirt over the urn,” said his daughter, Jana Hacker of Allen, Texas. “He’ll love it.”

West had a food industry reputation when the Frito Co. recruited him to be its marketing vice president in 1960. He had worked for both Lever Brothers and Young & Rubicam in New York as a liaison between the creative teams and clients that included Jell-O.

“One time a model didn’t show up, so my dad had to be in a cigarette ad,” Hacker said. “They had to put him in a hat with a fishing pole … he was just a character.”

West was inspired to create Doritos after Frito merged with H.W. Lay & Co. in 1961. He was on a family vacation to California at the time.

“If you ever watch ‘Salty Snacks’ on the History Channel, they tell the story,” his daughter said. “We were near San Diego and he stumbled on some little shack where they were making some interesting kind of chip.”

West liked the concept, but couldn’t sell the idea to management back in Dallas.

“It wasn’t 100 percent blessed,” she said. “He got some money from a budget and started to do some R and D that the big wigs didn’t know about.”

Doritos, the first tortilla chip to be sold nationally, became a multimillion-dollar product for Frito-Lay, now part of PepsiCo Inc.

The Dallas marketing man changed fortunes for other companies, too.

He was friends with Dave Pace of picante sauce fame, who asked why his salsa wasn’t selling like he thought it should.

“My father said, ‘Where do you have it stocked in the stores?”’ Hacker recounted.

“He said they are putting it with ketchup because it’s a tomato [product].”

West advised his friend to put the salsa by the chips.

“And we’re history from there,” his daughter said.

After he retired in 1974, he and his wife, Charlotte F. West, were active volunteers for FEMA, traveling to help with disaster relief. Charlotte West died in 2010.

In addition to his daughter, West is survived by three sons, Jack West of New Milford, Conn., Dick West of Las Vegas, and Greg West of Columbus, Texas; 12 grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

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