It seems that America's least politically correct snack -- the chip you love to eat but hate to smell being eaten -- has fallen victim to the times.
Doritos, those triangular, tiny tortillas with the in-your-face odor, have been olfactorily sensitized.
No more Dorito-breath.
Frito-Lay, the company that manufactures Doritos, announced this week that its new, improved version of the highly popular chip will no longer offend the sensibilities. It is on its way to a store near you.
They say they'll be using more cheese -- and much less garlic -- to concoct that sticky stuff that coats Nacho Cheese Doritos, makes them irresistible after the first crunch and nearly deadly when inhaled.
The corporate types claim the demise of Dorito-breath was accidental, that it was an "amazing side benefit" of some tinkering with seasonings. For 10 years they've been interrogating focus groups, deprogramming taste testers and others to see whether Doritos should adjust to consumers' changing, more moderate palates. And for years, Dorito eaters told them the same things. No. 1: We want a cheesier chip with a smoother, more mellow taste; No. 2, can't you do something about Dorito-breath?
"When you ate this product in the past, if you ate a certain amount and then stood around people, they could tell," says Frito-Lay spokeswoman Beverly Holmes.
But Frito-Lay was hesitant to act on the repeated advice. "When you have a $1.3 billion brand, you are not going to change anything too quickly," says Holmes.
Okay, not quite $1.3 billion. That's how much people spend on all the different kinds of Doritos -- the traditional unflavored corn version, Cool Ranch, Salsa Rio, Jumpin' Jack Monterey Jack Cheese and Nacho Cheese.
Nacho Cheese -- from now on to be known as Nacho Cheesier -- makes up 60 percent of Doritos sales, and it is by far the baddest breath offender.
Years from now, sociologists may mark the death of Dorito-breath as a significant move toward gender equality. It seems that anecdotal evidence and scientific findings both indicate that men generally don't care about fouling the air of others. Doritos were reformed for women, and only peripherally, perhaps, for the future of the race.
"Guys are never bothered by smells," said Mike Rawlings, president of Tracy-Locke, the advertising company that's launching Nacho Cheesier's campaign. "Women are more fragrant-sensitive in my research experience. Teenage guys are human garbage disposals. They just eat everything in front of them. Give them a bag of Doritos and they inhale it.
"We find young females are emotional gatekeepers. They love it, but they are dealing with the side benefits in their minds. They're concerned with their breath; they don't want to overeat... ."
How do you advertise something like this? Good Breath Guaranteed?
This is a junk food that has made junkies out of an incredible number of consumers who must like what they've been getting. According to Frito-Lay figures, Doritos outsells every other "dry good" in grocery stores with the exception of Campbell's soup.
Calculate the weight of a million Cadillacs, each packing six passengers, and you'll have an idea of how many Doritos have been eaten since they hit the snack-food market 26 years ago.
Aren't they afraid of rejection? That the public won't like the change?
Rawlings says he trusts his market studies.
"There's not any fear on our part," he says.
Which, it should be noted, is pretty much what Coca-Cola said a few years ago when it came out with New Coke.