Long ago, the three spicy chips lived together in harmony: Takis, Chester’s Hot Fries, and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Then, sometime in the late 2010s, there was a shift. Lays, arguably the biggest chip brand, saw the popularity of Hot Cheetos and decided to further capitalize off of it, as companies tend to do. Thus, the hot-cheetofication of the world came to be and the food world as we once knew it, changed forever. In this small analysis, we will be talking about the three surges of Hot Cheetos: the creation, the company surge, and the post-pandemic DIY surge

The Jump Off

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos came out in 1991 and are arguably, alongside Cheeto Puffs, the most popular of the Cheeto brand. Richard Montanez thought of the idea while at his janitor job and the rest is history. Since then, hot cheetos have become something of a phenomenon. The logo itself can be seen on multiple articles of clothes from a variety of brands, from socks to booty shorts. Even a movie is set to be made about these cheetos. This Flamin’ Hot phenomenon begs the question: What about Flamin Hot Cheetos makes them so addictive? 

This is where my years of chemistry and psychology will finally be useful. The first addictive component of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos is the first thing you see: the logo. The condensing of the word flaming seems “hip” while also posing a challenge to the consumers. The name itself is calling out as if to say: “Are these chips really that spicy? Test them and see.” The flames and red color scheme also don’t quite blend in with the shelves.

The second component has to do with the chemistry of the chips themselves. The puffy texture tricks the brain into eating more because the food seems low-calorie and not substantial. One look at the nutrition label would tell you otherwise. In addition to this, the composition of sugar, salt, and fat makes the body release opiates and endorphins.  

The First Wave

Now let’s begin to discuss the actual trends associated with Hot Cheetos. Phase One of the Flamin’ Hot trend is the company surge. The Cheeto clothing fits into this category, but we need to dive deeper into the food component of this trend. The company surge is when companies decided to hot-cheetofy everything, and I mean everything. Of course Lays, being the Hot Cheeto originator, hopped on the trend first. Flamin’ Hot spread across all Lays brands, from Ruffles, to Funyuns, to even Flamin’ Hot Cool Ranch Doritos, which personally sounds like too much flavor clashing but I digress. The real abominations came when other companies and stores made Flamin’ Hot versions of foods that did not need it at all. The most popular version of this is probably the Hot Cheeto Korean corn dogs. Our Spoon UGA team tried some and let’s just say they were less than satisfying. It just goes downhill from here. Some stores have started selling Flamin’ Hot bagels, Flamin’ Hot mac and cheese, Flamin’ Hot macaroons, and worst of all, Flamin’ Hot ice cream. Where does the madness end people?!

The Second Wave

The second surge is the DIY surge. In my opinion, this one is more understandable. People were social distancing and locked-in. It’s understandable that some may have gotten a little stir-crazy and wanted something new for their taste buds. I’m not one to judge. I too have wanted to try hot cheetos stuffed with bell peppers and cream cheese. It sounds so interesting. So during this section I, a woman of the people, will not bash any Flamin’ Hot creations, but instead highlight the most interesting.

These homeade creations include: Flamin' Hot pizzaFlamin' hot tenders, Flamin' hot mashed potatoesFlamin' hot burgerFlamin' hot crab, and Flamin' hot elote cups

Some may say, “Ilana, food trends are normal. Why get so worked up?” I think this is a special type of food trend because of its longevity. Unlike past food trends such as charcoal, this trend is happening in grocery stores, in restaurants, and at home. While it is waning in its peak popularity during the pandemic, the increase in Flamin’ Hot products has been growing for a while and I believe it will eventually plateau, but not disappear. Is this trend necessary? Of course not. Is it helpful/healthy? Nope. But it is definitely interesting and as a foodie, I can wait to try the Flamin’ Hot creations still to come.