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Richard Montañez      

Author, Philanthropist, Food Security Advocate; Former Vice President of Multicultural Sales & Community Activation for PepsiCo North America; Inspiration for the Film "Flamin' Hot"

Richard Montañez led Multicultural Sales & Marketing as Vice President across Pepsi North American divisions. After 42 years with the company, he is now retired. Throughout his career, Montañez has held various senior roles through Pepsi and Frito Lay divisions.

Montañez started his PepsiCo career at Frito-Lay in 1976 as a janitor and is recognized as the creator of the Flamin’ Hot line of products, which have become a billion-dollar business and a cultural phenomenon. In 2023, Eva Longoria premiered her directorial debut Flamin' Hot based on Montañez's creation of Flamin' Hot Cheetos.

Recognized for his visionary leadership, ability to innovate, and commitment to diversity, he has received several notable awards and is often named one of the most influential Latinos in corporate America.

Montañez is the only four-time recipient of PepsiCo’s Chairman’s Award, the highest honor given to employees based on performance and work ethic. As a long-standing mentor and executive sponsor of PepsiCo's Latino and Hispanic employee group, Adelante, Montañez has supported and nurtured the careers of hundreds of PepsiCo employees. Montañez is also a committed philanthropist and founder of Onelite, a nonprofit that provides hundreds of high-need families within the United States with food and school supplies.

He serves on several boards of directors and advisory boards. He was also the first Latino board member to serve on the board of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an African-American civil rights organization whose first president was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Montañez is a sought-after motivational speaker, speaking to corporate groups like Target, WalMart, and Slalom, as well as universities such as USC and Harvard. Montañez has been featured in TV and print outlets, such as Good Morning America, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Fortune and Newsweek.

Speech Topics

The Antidote to Fear Is Hunger

Richard Montañez has a Ph.D. in being poor, hungry, and determined. His journey is one that everyone can relate to. It begins with feelings of being out-of-place, in pain, afraid, and vulnerable. And involves overcoming obstacles, confronting fear, and perseverance – even as he’s seen success.

From his humble beginnings in a migrant labor camp, to working as a janitor, to the inspiration and hard work it took to launch the cultural phenomenon, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Montañez shares the life-shaping moments from his personal journey.

In this presentation, Montañez inspires and activates listeners. He emphasizes the importance of believing in one oneself, building confidence, and taking risks that some might find crazy. “Greatness comes in ridiculous forms, and I’m living proof,” he says. “My ridiculous idea became a billion dollar franchise.”

A testament to the importance of diversity, innovation, and entrepreneurship, Montañez’s story teaches others how to turn adversity into the determination it takes to excel in life and business. “With confidence, anything is possible,” he says. “So no matter where you come from, there’s no limit to where you can go.”


The True Story of the Flamin' Hot Cheetos Inventor Richard Montañez
Richard Montañez grew up in a migrant labor camp and became a janitor at Frito- Lay until a factory mishap inspired him to experiment with the Cheetos formula ...

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