Bad Week For '60s Icons: Kodak Dives; Doritos Guy Dies

It's a sad day if you remember tail fins, "Bonanza" and hula-hoops. Kodak, the company that brought us boxes full of memories of backyard birthday parties and second cousins whose names we can't recall, borrowed a little money from its revolving line of credit and saw its stock price dive to levels it hasn't seen since Elvis was an up-and-coming stud.

Also, word got around yesterday of the death last week of Arch Clark West, the Frito-Lay marketing guy who got the inspiration for Doritos while on a family vacation in Southern California in 1964.

First, Kodak, which says not to worry: It tapped into its credit line to the tune of $160 million "to bridge timing differences between cash outflows and inflows, which is a common practice at many corporations."

But the New York Times Andrew Martin writes that the move on Friday "reinforced concerns about the viability of the company's turnaround strategy, which relies on selling inkjet printers, commercial printing and company patents, and on Monday, its shares lost a quarter of their value, closing at $1.74."



Deutsche Bank Securities analyst Chris Whitmore says the company's history is a perfect case study for business schools.

"These guys invented this thing that is going to put them under," -- namely, the digital camera. "What did they do with that invention? What do you do? It's a big challenge."

As for Doritos, "if you ever watch 'Salty Snacks' on the History Channel, they tell the story," West's daughter, Jana Hacker, tells Joe Simnacher of theDallas Morning News. "We were near San Diego and he stumbled on some little shack where they were making some interesting kind of chip."

Frito-Lay management, however, didn't quite buy into the concept of a Latin-inspired chip.

"It wasn't 100% blessed," Hacker says. "He got some money from a budget and started to do some R and D that the bigwigs didn't know about."

The rest is history, sure to go down as a perfect case history of how to circumvent the nudniks in the corner office.

"West created ... the product that introduced Americans to a flavor called Nacho cheese," as Stephen Miller puts it in the Wall Street Journal.

The Washington Post's T. Rees Shapiro rounds up the current numbers for Doritos, which seem to be flourishing in this digital age. More than 924 million bags of Doritos were sold in America in the 52-week period ending last February, according to the Snack Food Association. A Doritos spokeswoman says that global sales per week were nearly $5 billion in 2010. (I do see a certain synergy between sun-deprived young hacker wannabes hunched over their PC screens everywhere and desktops strewn with empty Dorito bags and stale crumbs, don't you?)

West won a scholarship to Franklin College, became a cheese salesman and was in the Navy during World War II. Later, he was a marketer at Lever Brothers and at Young & Rubicam, where he worked on marketing campaigns for Jell-O.

West certainly wasn't a one-trick marketing guy. When his buddy David Pace, the founder of Pace salsas and Picante sauce, asked him for advice on boosting sales, West suggested moving the dips out of ketchup aisle and into the chips aisle. The sales pace quickened considerably.

"One time a model didn't show up, so my dad had to be in a cigarette ad," Hacker tells Simnacher. "They had to put him in a hat with a fishing pole ... he was just a character."

West "will have the epitome of a marketing man's epitaph," writes Simnacher. "His family plans to sprinkle Doritos at his graveside service, which is in Dallas on Oct. 1. Quoth his daughter: "He'll love it."

The chips have changed considerably over the years. In 1995, Frito-Lay made them 20% larger and 15% thinner and gave them rounded corners. Flavors now include 3rd Degree Burn Scorchin' Habanero and Blazin' Buffalo and Ranch.

"Mr. West ate Doritos his entire life and was sometimes sent batches to taste-test," Shapiro relates. "About three months ago, he tried a new flavor, Late Night All Nighter Cheeseburger. Mr. West took one bite and spit it out."

Truth be told, we wish we were rewriting the obit for Doritos rather than West. As the L.A. Times' Deborah Netburn points out, a small bag of the chips contains 260 calories, 120 of them from fat, and 360 milligrams of sodium.

"But then, none of that can hurt West," she concludes.

West died, at 97, from complications of vascular surgery.

2 comments about "Bad Week For '60s Icons: Kodak Dives; Doritos Guy Dies ".
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  1. Robert Henry from AccuWeather, Inc., September 27, 2011 at 8:42 a.m.

    Fantastic and interesting article, but with a disappointing ending. Loved Mr. West's story, so why would you conclude with wishing the obit for Doritos?

  2. Nicole Lipson from Georgia-Pacific, September 27, 2011 at 9:11 a.m.

    Well he didn't die from eating Doritos, now did he? I love that Doritos will be sprinkled around his grave...and that his kids say he'll love it. Now that's someone who loved life and lived it to the fullest. Wish we could all go that way!

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