Type Cheese curl
Owner Frito-Lay
Country  United States
Introduced 1948
Markets United States, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Japan

Cheetos is a brand of cheese-flavored cornmeal snack made by Frito-Lay, a subsidiary of PepsiCo. Fritos creator Charles Elmer Doolin invented Cheetos in 1948, and began national distribution in the U.S. The initial success of Cheetos was a contributing factor to the merger between The Frito Company and H.W. Lay & Company in 1961 to form Frito-Lay. In 1965 Frito-Lay became a subsidiary of The Pepsi-Cola Company, forming PepsiCo the current owner of the Cheetos brand.

In 2010, Cheetos was ranked as the top selling brand of cheese puffs in its primary market of the United States, worldwide the annual retail sales totaled approximately $4 billion. The original Crunchy Cheetos are still in production but the product line has since expanded to include 21 different types of Cheetos in North America alone. As Cheetos are sold in more than 36 countries, the flavor and composition is often varied to match regional taste and cultural preferences--such as Savory American Cream in China, and Strawberry Cheetos in Japan.



Cheetos were invented in the 1940s by Fritos creator Charles Elmer Doolin, who cooked early test batches in the Frito Company's Dallas, Texas-based research and development kitchen. The cheese-flavored snack sold quickly, but Doolin did not have the production or distribution capacity to support a nationwide launch. This led Doolin to partner with potato chip businessman Herman W. Lay for marketing and distribution, and Cheetos were introduced nationally in the U.S. in 1948 along with a potato product called Fritatos.[1] The success of Cheetos prompted Doolin and Lay to merge their two companies in 1961, forming Frito-Lay Inc.[2] At the time, Cheetos was one of four large snack food brands produced by the company, which had annual revenues of $127 million.[3] Frito-Lay merged with the Pepsi-Cola Company to form PepsiCo in 1965, prompting further distribution of Cheetos outside of North America.[4]

While Cheetos was the first snack food of its kind, competing products in the snack food category have since emerged--including Utz Cheese Curls, Herr's Cheese Curls and Wise Cheez Doodles. Most of the competing cheese-flavored snacks are distributed in specific regions of the U.S., and as of 2010 Cheetos remains as the top-selling cheese puff in America.[2][5]

As of 2011, Cheetos are produced, marketed and distributed under three different PepsiCo operating divisions: PepsiCo Americas Foods (which includes Frito-Lay in the United States and Canada,[6] Sabritas in Mexico[7] and Latin Americas Foods in Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela and Peru.[8]), PepsiCo Europe and PepsiCo Asia, Middle East & Africa.[9] In 2010, worldwide annual sales of Cheetos totaled approximately $4 billion, making it the 11th-largest PepsiCo brand.[9]

Products and distribution

The first Cheetos product was Crunchy Cheetos, invented in 1948 in San Antonio, Texas. Crunchy Cheetos remained the brand's sole product for 23 years until the introduction of Cheetos Puffs in 1971. The baked varieties, otherwise known as Baked Cheetos, became available beginning in 2004. As of 2010, there are 21 different variants of Cheetos snacks distributed in the United States.[10] In addition to the original Crunchy Cheetos, Cheetos Puffs and Baked varieties are sold in alternate shape and flavor variations--including a spicy variety known as Flamin' Hot Cheetos.[11]

Cheetos first entered Brazil in 1976,[12] followed by other countries such as Australia during the 1980s.[13] In 1994, Cheetos became the first American brand of snack food to be made and distributed in China.[14] As the distribution of Cheetos expanded outside the U.S. to include more than 36 different countries,[15] localized versions were produced to conform to regional tastes and cultural preferences.[16] Frito-Lay conducted extensive testing before settling on flavors for the Chinese market, with ranch dressing, North Sea crab, smoked octopus and caramel being passed up for two flavors: Savory American Cream and Zesty Japanese Steak.[17] These flavors were produced as the result of focus group testing, in which the original Crunchy Cheetos did not test as well.[18][17] Strawberry Cheetos, a variation of the original Crunchy Cheetos dipped in a flavored icing, are produced and distributed in Japan.[19] In India, Cheetos Whoosh are sold, made of ingredients such as whole grain and vegetables.[20] The sole Cheetos product produced in Australia is Cheetos Cheese & Bacon Balls.[21]


Cheetos are manufactured by blending corn and water. The mixture is heated under pressure, and then extruded through a die. The texture of the snack is formed as a result of contact with hot air, causing steam in the mixture to expand and creating its characteristic texture. After oven-drying or frying, the product is then tumbled with the desired flavor components (the original Crunchy Cheetos are fried). The process takes approximately 19 minutes and each half hour an in-house lab team inspects and taste-tests each batch. At this point, the result of the inspection is determined by comparing each batch to product sent from Frito-Lay headquarters.[22] Other flavor and format variations such as Cheetos Puffs, Cheetos Paws, Cheetos Twists, Cheetos Balls, and Cheetos Whirls are all finished with a drying stage in large ovens.[23] As of 2010, Frito-Lay has 14 fried-Cheetos plants in 11 states throughout the United States.[22]

Promotion and mascot

A Flaming-Hot Cheetos bag with the brand mascot Chester Cheetah

The Cheetos brand is commonly recognized by association with its mascot, an anthropomorphic cartoon cheetah named Chester Cheetah. Chester first appeared in television commercials in 1983 as an animated cartoon character, adopting a sly, smooth-voiced personality. This character became the focus of more Cheetos commercials, eventually becoming the brand's official mascot. Chester has become known for concluding Cheetos advertisements with slogans, which have evolved over time. Chester was preceded by an earlier mascot--the Cheetos Mouse, which debuted in 1971 using the slogan "Hail Chee-sar!" The slogan "it ain't easy bein' cheesy" was used in the late 1980s and early 1990s, followed by “the cheese that goes crunch” until 1996, when it became “Dangerously cheesy.” In the early 2000s, Chester was first rendered as a computer-generated character in the United States; while continuing to appear in an animated form in some other countries where the brand is sold.[24]

Beginning in 2008, Cheetos advertising and promotion broadened in regards to age appeal, with a revised focus on an adult demographic. In this personification, Chester speaks with a mid-Atlantic accent and encourages people to use their Cheetos in acts of revenge or to solve problems.[24] In February 2009, Cheetos was the subject of its first Super Bowl commercial. In the $3 million, 30 second advertisement, a "loud, chatty woman" is talking on her mobile phone at a restaurant. Chester the Cheetah persuades another customer to toss Cheetos onto the ground, attracting a flock of birds to drive away the obnoxious loud-talking customer.[25][26] The scenario depicted in this commercial exemplifies the adult-oriented themes of subversion and revenge, which continue to be prevalent in Cheetos advertisements produced since 2008.[24]

In Popular Culture

Cheetos have been the subject of public and media attention on multiple occasions due to the unpredictable shapes that form during the manufacturing process. Cheetos have been found in shapes which resembled the appearance of popular or historical figures. A single Cheeto described as being in the shape of Michael Jackson doing the Moonwalk Dance sold for $35.18 on Ebay in the summer of 2009, attracting national media coverage in the U.S.[27] A couple who found a Cheetos snack in a shape they described as resembling Jesus Christ nicknamed it "Cheesus" and garnered media attention as a result of their consideration of selling on Ebay.[28][29]

See also


  1. ^ "Corn, Potato Chip Packaging Big Business in San Antonio", Dallas Morning News, May 22, 1949, Section XVIII, page 8
  2. ^ a b Fernandez, Manny (3 August 2010). "Cheese Whatevers, City Has Them by the Handful". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  3. ^ "Frito-Lay, Inc. Company Profile for Students". HighBeam Research. 1 January 1999. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  4. ^ "Frito-Lay History". Frito-Lay North America, Inc.. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  5. ^ Saporito, Bill; Sarah Smith (21 December 1987). "How Borden Milks Packaged Goods". Fortune Magazine. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  6. ^ "PepsiCo, Inc. (PEP) Company Description". Businessweek. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  7. ^ Savage, Mark (14 February 1995). "Circle of Fun". The Milwaukee Sentinal. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  8. ^ "PepsiCo Investors Corporate Profile". PepsiCo, Inc.. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  9. ^ a b "2010 PepsiCo Annual Report". PepsiCo, Inc.. 25 December 2010. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  10. ^ "Full List of Cheetos Products". Frito-Lay. Retrieved 12 September 2011. 
  11. ^ "Don't Miss: Flamin' Hot Cheetos". 2006-05-09. Retrieved 2010-12-02. 
  12. ^ "Elma Chips Brands". PepsiCo Brazil. Retrieved 12 September 2011. 
  13. ^ "Cheetos Australia". PepsiCo Australia & New Zealand. Retrieved 12 September 2011. 
  14. ^ "Chinese Cheetos". 2006-11-27. Retrieved 2010-12-03. 
  15. ^ "Cheetos Mystery Colorz Snacks Taste Cheesy Like Cheetos" (Press Release). Frito-Lay North America. 7 January 2002. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  16. ^ Jay P. Pederson, ed (2000). International directory of company histories. Chicago: St. James Press. ISBN 9781558623910. 
  17. ^ a b Zikmund, William G.; Barry B. Babin (2009). Essentials of Marketing Research. Cengage Learning. p. 15. Retrieved November 16, 2011. 
  18. ^ "Cheetos pull flavor switch for Chinese" (in English). Lawrence Journal World. NY Times News Service: p. 2A. 1994-09-02.,177013&dq=cheetos+china&hl=en. Retrieved 2010-12-08. 
  19. ^ "Move To Japan So You Can Eat Strawberry Cheetos". 2009-01-28. Retrieved 2010-12-02. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Cheetos Australia Product List". PepsiCo Australia & New Zealand. Retrieved 12 September 2011. 
  22. ^ a b Koerner, Brendan (24 May 2010). "Making Cheetos: It Ain’t Easy Being Cheesy". Wired Magazine. Retrieved 30 June 2011. 
  23. ^ "Cheetos Cheese Snacks - The Smith's Snackfood Company". Retrieved 2009-07-26. 
  24. ^ a b c Stevenson, Seth (17 March 2008). "Chester's Got a Brand-New Bag". Slate. Retrieved 12 September 2011. 
  25. ^ Wong, Emily (29 January 2009). "Cheetos Joins Super Bowl Ad Parade". AdWeek. Retrieved 12 September 2011. 
  26. ^ "Frito-Lay Puts Cheetos Brand in Bloggers' Hands". 2009-02-11. Retrieved 2010-12-02. 
  27. ^ "Stupid Investment of the Week". 2009-07-03. Retrieved 2010-12-02. 
  28. ^ "Couple finds Jesus in a bag of Cheetos". 2009-05-19. Retrieved 2010-12-02. 
  29. ^ "Jesus Cheeto: A Texas Couple Finds Jesus in a Cheese Snack" (Television Broadcast Transcript). WCTV News (CBS Affiliate) (Tallahassee, FL). 18 May 2009. Retrieved 12 September 2011. 

External links

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