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June 06, 2008

Hey Doritos, Get Your Shit Together

There was a time when Doritos made one product – Nacho Cheese Doritos. This was a revolutionary chip. Even their shape was revolutionary. A triangle shaped chip? Fuck yes. Nacho Cheese flavored? Hell to the fuck yes. They came out in 1966. Nobody else was mass-marketing tortilla chips back then, let alone flavoring the shit out of them. Doritos was the Google of its time, so far superior to any other chip out there that to put it in the same snack food category as, say, Lays Potato Chips, would be an insult to the term “snack food category.”

Then they upped their game. When I was seven or eight, Doritos took it to the next level. How? By creating the “Taco Flavored Dorito.” How much did the Taco Dorito taste like an actual taco? Zero. It tasted zero much like a regular taco. Instead, it tasted better. Somehow Doritos managed to perfect the perfect food. Regular readers may or may not be aware of my fondness for all things taco related. Why? Because tacos are taco-riffic. And yet somehow the good people – nay, great people – at Doritos managed to create a taste so distinctive, it trumped even the good taste of tacos. And in doing so, they even managed to somehow made me dislike Mexicans less.

The Taco Dorito was spicier than the original Nacho Cheese Dorito, and miraculously seemed to contain more sodium than a chip that size should be able to handle. In chemistry, I remember learning about saturation and super-saturation. Somehow, perhaps using advanced 25th century magical powers of nanotechnology, the Doritos people super-saturated the Taco Dorito with delciousness. That is to say they put so much deliciousness in that product it threatened the very stability of matter itself. How did they do it? I don’t know and frankly, I don’t want to know. Even the Keebler elves never had that kind of power.

It was the perfect chip.

And then it disappeared. The Taco Dorito entered the Bermuda Triangle of snack foods. One minute it was there, the next gone without a word to anybody. And nobody besides me was even talking about it. Why was I the only one who seemed to notice or care. Several years later, when they cancelled that stupid Claire Danes show, thousands of people wrote letters to the network demanding it be brought back, and you couldn’t even that show. Nobody did that for Taco Dorito. Nobody did a god damned thing.

At first I thought maybe Doritos was playing mind games with us. Or maybe they were copying the folks at Mallomars, who only release their splendid cookie once a year. But as the years went by, I realized that unless they were implementing a “Taco Dorito only comes out once even seven years like the cicada” marketing strategy, chances are the Taco Dorito was gone for good.

Why?

Having been associated with almost exclusively failed projects over the course of my career, I would like to hazard a guess. My gut tells me the rest of America wasn’t nearly as wild about Taco Doritos as this lonely New Jersey boy, just as the rest of America hasn’t been particularly crazy about any of my aforementioned projects. My guess is that Americans preferred the safe, predictable, even boring flavor of the Nacho Cheese Dorito.  Maybe the rest of the nation felt the Taco Dorito was too spicy, too ethnic, too different. And maybe, I suspect, they feel the same way about me. I don’t know.

From that point on, Doritos lost their luster in my eyes. They really started to slide downhill after the Cool Ranch Dorito was introduced. First of all, I don’t like the idea of Doritos in a blue bag. Doritos and blue clash. That’s why in all of professional sports there is not a single team with orange and blue uniforms except the Denver Broncos who have never won anything (except several Super Bowls). Will I eat a Cool Ranch Dorito? Sure, because despite everything I still enjoy Doritos. I love their wholesome crunch, I love the flavor granules that scrape off the chip and wedge themselves into the whorls of my fingertips, allowing me the orgasmic pleasure of scraping the taste off with my teeth when I am done with my chips. To me, that’s like a Doritos dessert. But I don’t love them as much as I once did, back when the Taco Dorito was around.

Since then, Doritos has introduced a plethora of flavor choices, all of which are now preceded by an unnecessary adjective. “Sizzlin’ Picante,” for example. Or “Smokin’ Cheddar BBQ.” Setting aside the fact that I don’t want to eat any chip that combines the tastes of cheddar cheese and barbecuing, I don’t know why the marketing folks at Doritos feel the need to add descriptive modifiers to their chip names. Nor do I know why they feel the need to drop the “g’s” at the ends of “sizzling” and “smoking.”

Actually, I do know.

Recently I did some work for the people at Pepsico, under the aegis of the Sierra Mist banner. What you may not know is that Frito Lay, the makers of Doritos, is owned by Pepsico. A couple years ago Pepsi invited me to go to the Super Bowl, which they sponsor. As part of the weekend’s festivities, they had a big breakfast/marketing meeting/cult worship ceremony in which all of the different Pepsico brands showed off their upcoming commercials. When it was Doritos turn to go, an exuberant, amped-up dude bounded onto the stage and began describing the Doritos brand. He used words like youthful and fun-loving. But one word really stuck with me that day. “Doritos are outrageous,” he said.

Outrageous?

I wasn’t sure what he meant. Did he mean that the chip itself is outrageous? Or did he mean that outrageous people, as some part of their outrageousness, enjoyed Doritos? Or was it that Doritos forced ordinary people to do outrageous things? And what kind of outrageous act would be acceptable to Pepsico? For example, I imagine killing a hooker would probably not be okay. What if the killer employed the “Doritos made me do it” defense? I’m not expert on such matters, but it seems to me that could be very bad press.

No, I think to the corporate lackeys who make beverages and snack foods, dropping the “g” off the end of words = outrageous. The thought, perhaps being, that some square English teacher will see the bags on the shelves and say out loud, “They dropped the ‘g’. That’s outrageous!” As he stews in his indignation, some mop-topped skater kid will whiz by, grabbing the Doritos bag so quickly that the resultant breeze will blow off the professor’s toupee. That’s outrageous!!!

Maybe Doritos marketers think that people who routinely drop their g’s are rule breakers, and a chip that does the same will appeal to such people. But this is a slippery slope. That same skater kid (who is already breaking the rules by skateboarding in the supermarket) might decide that Doritos are awesome, but he doesn’t want to pay for them. So he just skates past the outraged cashiers, glides past the outraged security guys, and out the door, thus giving the proverbial middle finger to all of society.

OUTRAGEOUS!!!

Pepsico, I suspect, doesn’t want any actual outrageousness of this sort going on. Instead, they want the idea of outrageousness safely contained in a plastic snack bag. They want us to express our outrageousness through the radical, subversive act of eating a corn chip. Consider their marketing campaign that year. Regular people were encouraged to create their own commercial for Doritos. The winning entry would be shown during the Super Bowl. OUTRAGEOUS!!! Somebody needs to explain to me how the act of creating a thirty second television commercial for a multinational food and beverage conglomerate could be perceived as anything other than utterly bourgeois, which is a French word meaning “fucking stupid.” The only thing outrageous about it was that they weren’t getting paid.

Then there is the issue of some of the newer additions to the Doritos family like the 100 calorie Mini Bite Doritos. These are bags of Doritos carefully apportioned so that if one eats the whole bag, that person will be ingesting exactly one hundred calories of outrageousness. You can’t have it both ways, Doritos. You can’t be crazy and impulsive and also a 100 calorie mini bag. Or what about the Reduced Fat Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch Dorito? Reduced fat? OUTRAGEOUS!

Go to the Doritos web site here. There you will find all kinds of outrageousness: electric guitars, speedboats, seaplanes, plus advertisements for other products like the Xbox and MTV. Why does a website for one product advertise other products? That’s easy: outrageous corporate synergy. MTV? Outrageous. Xbox? Outrageous. There’s also an interactive video game called “The Quest,” whose tagline is “Guessing the flavor is just the beginning.” Honestly, I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I am “guessing the flavor.”

Scenario I want to avoid as follows:
Person 1: “Here. Eat this.”
Me: “What is it?”
Person: “Guess!”

I much prefer to know what I’m putting in my mouth before I do so. And when I do eat something, I want that to be pretty much the end of the adventure. Because in the past, any adventures I’ve had that began with me eating something usually ended up with me throwing up throughout the night. But maybe I’m just not outrageous enough to play a video game on a website for corn chips.

Why can’t we just have chips? Why do I need slogans and branding and treasure? I just want to be able to eat my salt and trans fats in peace. And I want those trans fats to be taco flavored, just like they used to be. Either I’m just not getting the world anymore or else the world is just gettin’ more outrageous.



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paisley

When I was in college they had the Chester Cheese Doritos. Doritos that taste like Cheetos? Perfection. Two perfect snacks in one. Then it was gone and I am still not the same.

However, if you ever miss Cheez Balls - the Cheetos Asteroids 100 Calorie Pack seems to be an exact duplicate. Only smaller.

:)

krunker

dude, they just drop the 'g' because it's the stupidest letter in the alphabet. nothin to cry 'bout.

michelle

it looks like they still sell taco doritos:
http://flickr.com/photos/gdewar/2227362829/

Steve Huff

This a rich, orange vein you could mine forever, Michael Ian Black. Why? Because just around the corner from Doritos in the snack aisle (okay, down the lane, to be totally accurate) are Cheetos, and how the beep-beep, zip-tang, far-cooler-than-me-or-you Chester Cheetah morphed into a diminutive lurking psychopath bent on pouring his calumny into the ears of laundromat customers and office workers nationwide, sowing all sorts of mischief and misery, is the kind of thing I stay up at night wondering about. After she found all her whites soiled beyond recognition by those terribly wasted little powdered cheese torpedoes, did the uptight lady at the laundromat go home and quietly poison her family that night?

What about the anal-retentive with the Bonsai tree in his cubicle? Did he find that smashed cheeto folded into his pristine white Mac and later that night neatly array his effects on the roof of an office building and swan-dive out of his misery?

I'm saying you have made an excellent point when you ask, "why can't we just have chips?" But if you broaden your view to include other snack items like cheetos, the picture darkens and frays around the edges. Give me simple chips without mystery, yes. But spare me the horrors of the Orange Underground, as well.

Calvin

Taco Doritos are only discontinued in certain areas. This place sells taco Doritos, and they will ship them via UPS: http://www.fortwaynegrocery.com/

http://www.fortwaynegrocery.com/front.php?action=additem&cid=23418

Nate

I've seen taco Doritos in Ohio recently. Whenever I travel, I always check the snack aisle to see what kinds of regional Doritos are available. Next time you go to Canada or Mexico, you'll find some awesome flavors you can't get here.

Another hot tip: stay far away from gimmicky unmarked bags. They have a new one out called "Doritos: The Quest"; you have to guess what the flavor is. (They taste like Miller Chill!) I couldn't finish a bag of X-13Ds, which tasted exactly like McDonald's cheeseburgers.

reslez

You must be living in a Taco-flavored Doritos De-Militarized Zone because Calvin is indeed correct: Taco-flavored Doritos are among us.

For myself, I miss the Monterey Jack flavor. I think it came in a black bag. Far superior to Cool Ranch.

Susanna

This hilarious post brought back a lot of Doritos-based memories and feelings of joy and shame for me. I am a Doritos binge eater. Once I start, I can't stop until I get sick. I think crack might be one of the "special" ingredients. I can't keep them in my house for this reason, as I don't want to end up in Dor-rehab. That would be OUTRAGEOUS!!

Steve Huff

Agreed about the Monterey Jack. It blew away the cool ranch.

For some reason this discussion brings to mind a very different food -- Boo Berry cereal. For many years I thought one of my favorites was gone, mostly due to some faux outrage about the mascot, fomented by people who had never heard of Peter Lorre (they focused on "boo" as if it was a pejorative, not recognizing that the ghost was actually modeled after the legendary character actor and was a DAMN GHOST, after all).

I lamented the vanishing of Boo Berry, but some time in the last year I discovered that it is still sold on some store shelves after all, usually only during the Halloween Season. Year-round, you can still get it online, of course.

There is a move on in some quarters to bring back brands that really have been off the market for years, to somehow cash in on something similar to what Mr. Black has expressed in this entry -- a desire to go back to basics, to the simple, familiar and comforting. Now if we can just get them to put lithium back in 7 Up -- http://www.softdrinkguide.com/7up.php -- we might be on to something.

David

Dude, Cool Ranch is amazing. Let's not say things we might regret later.

Steve Huff

You're right, David. I may have been rash. Much as I may have missed Monterey Jack, I must admit I've gorged myself of cool ranch doritos anyway. I never snorted the dust in the bottom of the bag the way I did with Monterey Jack, but I did eat until the mildly spicy cool ranch odor seemed to become a component of my body chemistry. It's a love-hate thing, is what I'm saying.

Todd from australia

I know just how you feel Mikey, last night stood in poo...human poo...barefoot. How it got inside my house and up the stairs is unknown, all I know is someone needs less iron in their diet, there was discolouration.....

Tom Ritchford

Jesus, man, you spend too much time thinking about crap like this. How can you eat that garbage?

Liam

Oh, Doritos. Delicious snacky food. One of my favourites disappeared awhile ago as well. They were Taco Bell Nacho Bell Grande Doritos, I believe. And they were the most delicious Doritos I have ever encountered.

I am intrigued about these taco Doritos, as tacos are definitely my favourite food group.

Preston

You're the man.

Liam

Oh, Doritos. Delicious snacky food. One of my favourites disappeared awhile ago as well. They were Taco Bell Nacho Bell Grande Doritos, I believe. And they were the most delicious Doritos I have ever encountered.

I am intrigued about these taco Doritos, as tacos are definitely my favourite food group.

lovelydingo

MIB,

please get your blog out of my life.


Jules9999999

I too, remember the Taco Doritos, after being sent on many errands by my mother in the early 80's..."get me regular Doritos and an avocado, plus return those Coke bottles for a refund"...getting the Taco flavored Doritos instead of the regular was an easy mistake, as the bags were similarly-colored. A mistake I enjoyed immensely since the flavor was so ethnically spicy, I thought I hit a gold mine. I miss those. On a side note...I can't find BBQ Fritos anywhere. That flavor has yet to be replicated in any chip. I love chili-cheese Fritos, but they're no BBQ Fritos, that's for sure.

Therese

America has like 50 billion flavours of everything. We have few flavours of Doritos here in England. We have few flavours of anything. Except political parties, we have those in more flavours than are necessary.

Chrisum

Nobodys touched on the fact that the good Dorito people rounded the edges sometime ago. That's OUTRAGEOUS!
How can a dorito be outrageous after they dulled the points of a triangle? Doritos come with broken chips in the bag. This results in jagged edges.
I think I just answered my own question.
jagged edges.
That's so outrageous.

Camille

Speaking of missing products,I loved cherry Newtons.

These days everything has to be hyped up,sparkly,overly descriptive and outrageous because they assume everyone feels the need to be entertained to grab attention. Have you ever sat down and watched,really watched and focused on commercials in between kid shows? It's manic! No wonder our attention spans are so eas

Stewart

You can still buy them here in Tulsa. I had a bag recently, and they tasted just as good as they did when I was a kid.

I also recently had a bag of something called Sweet and Spicy Chipotle. They were magnificent, but now I can't find them anymore.

Katy

I feel the same way about Planter's "Cheeze" Balls. Why would they discontinue such a glorious snack?

mark

I remember Taco Flavored Doritos. In fact, I used to babysit kids & my fee was a 6-pack of diet coke & a bag of Taco Flavored Doritos. It couldn't get any better than that. Of course my girlfriend (now my wife of 28 years) was with me!

I do miss the Taco!

Ali

"I just don't have the same passion for delivering mail as I do for making and distributing tacos." <--- spoken by someone else, but inspired by your love of all things taco?

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