Creator of Doritos dies at 97

Sep 26 2011 - 5:44pm

DALLAS -- Arch Clark West will have the epitome of a marketing man's epitaph -- his family plans to sprinkle Doritos at his graveside service Saturday at Restland Memorial Park in Dallas.

West, the retired Frito-Lay executive credited with creating Doritos, died last week 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.

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 & D that the bigwigs 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.

Born in Indianapolis, West was placed in a Masonic home in Franklin, Ind., after his father, a Mason, died, leaving his mother with two sons she could not support.

West received his bachelor's degree from Franklin College in Indiana, which he attended on a scholarship. He then started his career as a cheese salesman for Standard Brands.

He joined the Navy in 1943 and served as a gunnery officer aboard the USS Holt during World War II.

After the war, West resumed his career in Indianapolis and was later recruited by Lever Bros. in New York.

In North Texas, West was a founding member of the former Ridgeview Presbyterian Church in Farmers Branch and had served on several corporate boards of directors.

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.

From Around the Web

  +