The untold truth of Doritos

It is virtually impossible to eat just one, two, even three Doritos. Try as you might, before you know it your hand has reached into the bag over and over again, it's at least half gone, and your thumb and forefinger are coated in that telltale orange dust. There's no way you could ever pretend that you hadn't just been eating the iconic nacho cheese-flavored chips — your stained digits are a dead giveaway (which of course you have to lick clean because washing your hands would be a tragic waste of flavor).

But as much as you love eating these chips, be it Cool Ranch, Cheese Supreme, or Salsa Verde, you probably don't know all that much about your favorite snack. So grab a handful — just be careful not to get powdered cheese all over your keyboard — and find out all the little known factoids about Doritos you never knew you needed to know.

They're addictive, as proven by science

That feeling you get while you're eating Doritos, like you couldn't possibly stop until the bag is empty? It's not just you. They're downright addictive, and we've got science to back it up. Business Insider broke down the facts from food scientist Steven Witherly's book, Why Humans Like Junk Food, to find out what it is that keeps us coming back for more.

That cheesy powder is responsible for much of the chips' overall addictiveness. Not only is it high in sugar, salt (both of the "major pleasure solutes"), and umami tastants (hello MSG!) — all of which our taste buds love — it also contains acids, which cause a release of saliva and trigger the urge to eat. In other words, they're literally mouth-watering.

Other components that hook us: 

Fat. Our brains love fat, and Doritos contain 50 percent fat calories, which happens to be the ideal ratio.

A "non-specific aroma quality." Because of the chip's "complex aroma profile" you aren't able to pick out any one specific flavor, meaning you can eat more without getting sensory burnout.

Cheese. Aside from just being delicious, cheese contains casein protein. When digested that turns into morphine-like compounds called casomorphins. That's right... morphine, like the drug.  

And that finger-lickin' good mess you're left with? Witherly says, "The stuff on your fingers is 5-6 times more concentrated" than what's on the chips. So licking it off is going to make you want to dive right back in.

They were (maybe) invented at Disneyland

There are two theories when it comes to the invention of Doritos — one story goes that they got their start at Disneyland; another gives credit to Archibald West, a Frito-Lay marketing executive. But it turns out that even Frito-Lay doesn't know the truth. "We don't have anything in our records or archives that confirms it... it's difficult for us today to say where inspiration did and did not come from. We don't credit any one individual for inventing our products," public relations director Joan Cetera told Huffington Post.

As for the Disneyland version... Once upon a time, Disneyland's Frontierland was home to Frito-Lay's Mexican restaurant, Casa de Fritos. One serendipitous day, a salesman from Alex Foods, the tortilla factory who supplied the restaurant, noticed that the cooks were throwing stale tortillas out, and recommended instead that they fry them in oil for a crispy snack. Of course, they were a big hit with diners, and the iconic snack had unofficially been born — though at this point Frito-Lay was unaware of the development.

Eventually, Arch West visited Casa de Fritos and tasted the Doritos, which translates to "little golden things." One taste was all it took, and he immediately started production in 1964 — they went nationwide in 1966. It only took a few years for the masses to get bored with the plain chips though, and in 1968 a taco seasoning was added. The classic nacho cheese flavor that we all know and love didn't debut until 1974.

But what about Arch West?

Theory number two: Frito-Lay marketing executive Arch West invented Doritos.

This story goes that in 1964, while on a family vacation in Southern California, West happened upon a roadside shack selling greasy bags of toasted tortillas. He knew he had stumbled onto something special, and immediately pitched the idea of crisp triangular tortilla chips to his company, saying they would serve as the perfect complement to the company's other products — the thinner Lay's potato chips and thicker Fritos corn chips. 

Whether or not Arch West actually invented Doritos, he was loyal to the chips. According to his obituary, he ate them his whole life, and was even sent new flavors to taste test long after retirement (he apparently spit out his sample of Late Night All Nighter Cheeseburger). And ultimately, West, who died in 2011, was given a final send-off that only a true Doritos lover would appreciate. "We are tossing Doritos chips in before they put the dirt over the urn," his daughter said. "He'll love it."

Do they really taste the same without the powder?

Thanks to the internet and its ability to spread information far and wide at top speed — whether true or not — we can be subjected to plenty of hearsay on a whole range of topics, and Doritos are not exempt.

Every so often we'll see a claim going around that the powder on Doritos has nothing to do with flavor — it's only there as part of the "Doritos experience." There's an entire Reddit thread dedicated to this very subject. The thread has almost 2,000 comments, with many Redditors lamenting that messy "Doritos experience," and begging for powder-less chips. But it's not going to happen anytime soon, because the cheesy dust does in fact have everything to do with flavor. Waffles at Noon reached out to Frito-Lay on the subject and received the following statement, effectively disproving the hoax: "The seasoning we add to our chips is used only for flavor. It is not designed to create residue on the fingers but that certainly can be part of the eating experience!"

The "lady-friendly" Doritos controversy

Doritos found itself at the center of controversy when Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo. (Frito Lay's parent company), made some surprising comments during a Freakomonics podcast. When asked about the differences in the way men and women eat chips, Nooyi responded, "... a lot of the young guys eat the chips, they love their Doritos, and they lick their fingers with great glee... Women would love to do the same, but they don't. They don't like to crunch too loudly in public. And they don't lick their fingers generously and they don't like to pour the little broken pieces and the flavor into their mouth." She continued, "It's not a male and female as much as 'are there snacks for women that can be designed and packaged differently?' And yes, we are looking at it, and we're getting ready to launch a bunch of them soon. For women, low-crunch, the full taste profile, not have so much of the flavor stick on the fingers, and how can you put it in a purse?"

This, of course, sent the internet into a tizzy, decrying "lady-friendly" Doritos and calling for Frito-Lay to rethink this sexist idea. PepsiCo., doing a bit of damage control, quickly clarified, "The reporting on a specific Doritos product for female consumers is inaccurate. We already have Doritos for women — they're called Doritos, and they're enjoyed by millions of people every day." Now that's a statement we can get behind.

They support the LGBT community

In 2015, Doritos partnered with the It Gets Better Project to launch a campaign with its most colorful product yet — Pride flag-inspired Doritos Rainbows in celebration of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. The campaign, with its tagline "There's nothing bolder than being yourself" supported LGBT youth with $10 donations in exchange for a bag of the limited edition rainbow-hued chips.

Ram Krishnan, Frito-Lay chief marketing officer, explained, "Time and again, our consumers have shown us, there really is nothing bolder than being true to yourself and living life to the fullest. With Doritos Rainbows chips, we're bringing an entirely new product experience to our consumers to show our commitment toward equal rights for the LGBT community and celebrate humanity without exception."

The hope for Doritos Rainbows, said It Gets Better Project's Brett Peters, is to "inspire the LGBT community and its allies to continue the fight and embrace who they are by living a #BoldandBetter life." 

They hit it BIG with their Taco Bell collaboration

Nobody could have predicted the success of the Doritos Locos Taco, now referred to as one the most successful fast food innovations of all time. Its launch in 2012 was "the biggest launch in Taco Bell history," according to CEO Greg Creed, and an astounding 500 million were sold in the first 14 months. Yes, that's more than one million tacos per day. By 2013, they had crossed the $1 billion in sales mark.

Knowing what we know now, it's unfathomable to think that the collaborative product with Frito-Lay almost didn't exist, but issues with taste and texture kept the taco in development for many years. "The idea sounds really simple, but it has to deliver on two fronts: the classic Taco Bell taste and the distinctive Doritos experience," Taco Bell product developer Steven Gomez said. "Unlike a tortilla chip, taco shells can't break, and have to properly hold the taco ingredients." They eventually got it right — make that very right — and the rest is history.

They have a link to "American Hustle"

As if we needed more proof that Jennifer Lawrence is just like us, here it is:

We learned that the star is a self-proclaimed junk food lover when she revealed her favorite snacks to Vanity Fair. "Cool Ranch Doritos are my girl. I've been trying to wean myself off Cool Ranch and on to Pirate's Booty but it's just not doing the trick," she admitted. But if her snack of choice doesn't make her relatable enough, there's more. 

Not even Jennifer Lawrence is immune to Doritos fingers — not even while on set and in costume. While filming American Hustle, Lawrence wore a dress that her character was supposed to spill champagne on, prompting costume designer Michael Wilkinson to make several copies of the garment. The champagne proved not to be the issue though — it was that ever-present Doritos dust that did the dress in. Wilkinson dished, "... Jennifer Lawrence is a very... let's say... raw and intuitive young lady, and she's not against eating Doritos and snack food in her costume. So we were glad that we had a couple [backups]." We get it, JLaw. 

They were banned by a school

Chips that come with a warning probably don't belong in the hands of children, but that's exactly where a bag of Doritos Roulette ended up, and the consequences were dire.

Doritos Roulette contains one in six chips that is, according to Frito-Lay VP-Senior Director of Marketing Jeff Klein, "melt-your-face" hot. We're talking 78,000 on the Scoville Heat Scale (a jalapeño comes in at a paltry 2,500 to 5,000 units). The rest of the chips in the bag are classic Nacho Cheese, but they all look the same, which is where things turn into a game of Russian roulette.

Though the bag warns "Some of these chips are ultra spicy!" one 14-year-old in the UK was undeterred and decided to tempt fate. After a few lucky choices, Beth Laybourn finally bit into a spicy chip. "I started retching so I ran to the toilet and was sick. I had four mugs of milk and my throat still wouldn't stop burning. I couldn't breathe properly and I really thought I was going to die," she said. Laybourn, an asthmatic, continued, "I kept thinking that if it leads to a full-blown asthma attack I could die." About a week later, she did suffer a major asthma attack at school, and believed it was linked to the ultra-hot Doritos. The scare prompted her school to ban the chips, saying, "They can cause distress, particularly to those with sensitivities, allergies or breathing problems."