Creator of Flamin’ Hot product line next JBS speaker

Richard Montañez

The creator of Frito-Lay’s Flamin’ Hot line of products and an innovative leader at Frito-Lay and PepsiCo, Richard Montañez will be the featured speaker at the John Ben Shepperd Leadership Institute Distinguished Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center.

The event is free and the community is invited to attend. There will be a Q&A following his remarks.

Montañez comes to the Distinguished Lecture Series through the Washington Speakers Bureau.

“I’m really excited about this speaker selection because I think it’s a very hot topic in pop culture, and that it’s a good leadership-themed story. It’s going to make a great connection with the students and the community, along with just other community members,” said Savannah R. Woodward, director of special events at the John Ben Shepperd Leadership Institute.

Montañez led multicultural sales and marketing as vice president across Pepsi North American divisions, and after 42 years with the company he retired March 1, 2020. He served in various senior roles in the Pepsi and Frito-Lay divisions.

He began his 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, information from JBS details.

Montañez is 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, the information said. He 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 longtime 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. He also is a committed philanthropist and founder of Onelite, a nonprofit that provides hundreds of high-need families in the United States with food and school supplies, the information said.

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

Montañez also is a sought-after motivational speaker, presenting to groups like Target, Walmart and Slalom, as well as universities such as USC and Harvard. He has been featured on TV and in print outlets such as Good Morning America, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Fortune and Newsweek. His story is the subject of a biopic from Fox Searchlight Films called Flamin’ Hot. It is available on Hulu.

Woodward said his remarks will probably touch on the creation the Flamin’ Hot line, but mainly leadership and growing in his career.

She added that it’s thrilling to have someone like Montañez speak to the community.

“For us to be able to secure access to leaders … such as Mr. Montañez and bring them to the Permian Basin and to West Texas for our community free of charge to them is amazing,” Woodward said.

This is an opportunity for people to not only see Montañez in a movie or through reading, but in person.

“They’re actually going to see this person in person. I think that’s a really special thing and I’m happy that we’re able to offer that for our community,” Woodward said.

Woodward said they are working on potential chances for Montañez to meet with students on campus.

“We’re still working out the logistics, but that’s our hope that we will be able to work that out,” she added.

Woodward said she’s in talks with the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center to see if there is some way to have Hot Cheetos at the concession.

“I think people would really enjoy that,” she added.

Woodward said they started marketing just recently and the feedback has been positive.

“I think he really speaks to a lot of different aspects to our community. Those who are of Hispanic heritage and those who connect with his starting from the bottom and learning to excel and having an idea and taking it and running with it. I think that’s very inspiring to a lot of people. Then also it connects with our students and other younger generation in the community because it is such a hot snack in pop culture right now,” Woodward said.

“It is a free event. Our Shepherd Inner Circle donors make that possible for the community. Anyone is welcome to attend. It’s going to be Tuesday, Sept. 26, at 7 p.m. at the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center. If anyone needs any information regarding the Shepherd Inner Circle donor group, or regarding the event, then my contact would be best,” she added.

Woodward said the whole team is very excited about being able to bring this opportunity to the community, hosted by University of Texas Permian Basin.

“We are always taking suggestions for speakers, so this is an event for our community. We would like to know who the community would like to see,” Woodward said.

Woodward can be contacted at [email protected]