The story of Frito-Lay, a beloved American snack food company, is one of innovation, expansion, and adaptation.

From its humble beginnings in the early 1930s as two separate entities, The Frito Company and H.W. Lay & Company, to its merger in 1961 and subsequent acquisition by PepsiCo in 1965, Frito-Lay has continuously evolved to meet the changing tastes and demands of consumers.

Throughout its history, the company has introduced iconic brands, expanded internationally, and navigated challenges, solidifying its position as a leader in the global snack food industry.


early days of fritos
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1932 — Corn Chips & Potato Chips

Source: Frito-Lay

Charles Elmer Doolin founds The Frito Company in San Antonio, Texas, after purchasing a corn chip recipe, a handheld potato ricer, and 19 retail accounts from a corn chip manufacturer for $100.

Herman Lay begins a potato chip distribution business in Nashville, Tennessee.

1933-1939 — Early Expansion of Two Brands

The Frito Company expands production and moves headquarters to Dallas. New products like Fritos Peanut Butter Sandwiches and Fritos Peanuts are introduced.

The Frito Company introduces Fritatos Potato Chips in 1935.

The Frito Company opens a research and development lab in 1937.

Herman Lay forms H.W. Lay & Company in 1939 after acquiring the Barrett Food Company's Atlanta and Memphis plants.

1940s-1950s — Going National

Source: Frito-Lay

The Frito Company goes public and expands nationally. Fritos are sold in 48 states by 1950.

H.W. Lay & Company grows through acquisitions, becoming the largest potato chip manufacturer in the U.S. by 1956.

The Frito Company introduces Chee-tos cheese-flavored snacks in 1948.

The Frito Company launches a successful marketing campaign featuring Mel Blanc as the voice of the "Frito Bandito" character in the 1950s, though it was later criticized for stereotyping.

H.W. Lay & Company introduces Lay's Potato Chips in 1944, after acquiring the Gardner trademark from the Barrett Food Company.

H.W. Lay & Company expands through acquisitions, including the Richmond Potato Chip Company and the Capitol Frito Corporation.

1958 — New Era

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The Frito Company acquires Nicolay Dancey Company, maker of New Era potato chips (eventually sold to Better Made), entering the Midwest market.

1961 — Frito & Lay Merger

Source: Frito-Lay

The Frito Company and H.W. Lay & Company merge to form Frito-Lay, Inc. with headquarters in Dallas. Combined sales total $127 million.

New product development accelerates after the merger, with the introduction of Ruffles Potato Chips in 1961.

Comedian/clown Bert Lahr is picked to star in a wide range of Lay's Potato Chip ads.


pepsi and frito-lay
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1965 — Frito-Lay & Pepsi-Cola Merger

Source: PepsiCo

Frito-Lay, Inc. merges with Pepsi-Cola Company, forming PepsiCo, Inc. Frito-Lay is operated as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

1960s-1970s — Doritos, Funyuns & Competition Heats Up

Source: Frito-Lay

Introduction of Doritos tortilla chips in 1966, which initially struggled but became successful after the introduction of Taco and Nacho Cheese flavors.

Launch of Funyuns onion-flavored rings in 1969 and Munchos potato crisps in 1971.

Acquisition of Rold Gold pretzels in 1971.

International expansion through Pepsi-Cola's distribution channels.

Frito-Lay faces increased competition from brands like Pringles (Procter & Gamble), Nabisco, and Standard Brands in the snack food market.

Controversy over the "Frito Bandito" mascot led to its discontinuation in 1971.

Porky Pig begins to appear in Ruffles commercials.

1980s — Tortilla Chips & Cookies

Source: Frito-Lay

Introduction of Tostitos tortilla chips in 1980, which became one of Frito-Lay's most successful product launches.

Acquisition of Grandma's Cookies in 1980, which was later launched nationwide in 1983.

Acquisition of Smartfood, a cheese-flavored popcorn brand, in the late 1980s.

Introduction of Sun Chips multigrain snacks in 1981.

Ongoing domestic and international growth, with the introduction of international distribution partnerships and joint ventures.

Chester Cheetah is launched as the new mascot for Cheetos.

1990s — International Expansion

Source: Frito-Lay

Flamin' Hot Cheetos were introduced nationwide by Frito-Lay in 1992 after successful market trials, quickly becoming a cultural phenomenon that resonated across diverse demographics.

New healthy product line extensions such as Baked Tostitos and Baked Lay's introduced in response to consumer demand for healthier snacks.

Acquisition of Cracker Jack in 1997.

Acquisitions of international brands, including Smith's Snackfood Company (Australia) and Sabritas (Mexico).

Frito-Lay organized into two divisions under PepsiCo: Frito-Lay North America and Frito-Lay International.

Successful marketing campaigns and slogans like "Betcha Can't Eat Just One" for Lay's chips and "Dangerously Cheesy" for Cheetos.

Introduction of WOW! chips in 1998, made with the fat substitute olestra, but the product was unsuccessful due to consumer concerns about side effects.

Faced controversy over genetically modified ingredients (GMOs), leading to a commitment to remove GMOs from Frito-Lay products in 2000.


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2000s — Do Us a Flavor

Source: Frito-Lay

Frito-Lay continues international expansion and product innovation, introducing new flavors and varieties of popular brands.

Acquisition of Stacy's Pita Chip Company in 2005, expanding Frito-Lay's presence in the pita chip market.

Quaker Foods merges into PepsiCo and is organized under Frito-Lay North America, bringing brands like Quaker Chewy granola bars and Quaker rice cakes into the Frito-Lay portfolio.

Increased focus on healthier snack options made with natural ingredients, such as the introduction of Lay's Natural and Tostitos Natural lines.

Successful marketing campaigns like the "Do Us a Flavor" contest for Lay's, which invites consumers to suggest new chip flavors.

2010s — All-Natural Transition

Continued development of products made with all-natural ingredients across brands, including the reformulation of Lay's Kettle and Lay's flavored chips in 2010.

Lay's potato chips see 8% sales growth after switching to all-natural ingredients.

Frito-Lay announces plans to switch half its products, including Sun Chips, Tostitos, Fritos, and Rold Gold pretzels, to all-natural ingredients by 2011.

Introduction of Doritos Locos Tacos at Taco Bell in 2012, featuring Doritos-flavored taco shells, which became one of the most successful fast food product launches.

Launch of Cheetos Popcorn in 2012, blending the iconic Cheetos cheese flavor with popcorn.

Acquisition of Bare Foods, a maker of fruit and vegetable chips, in 2018.

Introduction of Smartfood Delight, a lighter version of the popular popcorn brand, in 2018.

2020s — Strikes & Mac’n Cheese

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Frito-Lay experiences some controversy over treatment of workers at its Topeka, Kansas plant, leading to a 19-day strike in July 2021.

Continues operating as a division of PepsiCo, generating over $17 billion in annual revenue.

Launch of Cheetos Mac 'n Cheese in 2020, capitalizing on the popularity of Cheetos flavor in new product categories.

Introduction of Doritos 3D Crunch in 2020, a revival of the popular 1990s snack with updated flavors.

Ongoing product innovation and marketing campaigns, including limited-time flavors and collaborations with other brands.