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Baked tostitos, a $100 million-plus winner for Frito-Lay, almost didn't happen.

Parent brand Tostitos, hit by poor sales, was nearly discontinued in 1989. The base brand was saved by the arrival of Restaurant Style Tostitos in 1990, a strategy so successful that Frito started to look at other line extensions.

By 1994, Frito had isolated its target: Better-for-you tortilla chips. The company turned to Mike Munro, now a 30-year-old product manager.

"There was an emerging consumer desire for better-for-you products that was relatively underdeveloped in the salty snack aisle," recalls Mr. Munro, who noted "no one was making a great-tasting chip."

Frito went to work developing a chip-it was tested and tweaked before it rolled out in August 1994. There was no initial ad support at rollout.

"We hit capacity problems almost right away," says Mr. Munro.

The long-awaited campaign from BBDO Worldwide, New York, broke in fall '94 and featured Tostitos spokesman Chris Elliott in a museum, using the parent brand's themeline, "You got Tostitos, you got a party."

Spending came from Tostitos' $20 million budget, and Baked Tostitos had a high-profile role in the parent brand's sponsorship of the 1995 Fiesta Bowl.

The result was a $134.5 million brand, according to Information Resources Inc., for the 52 weeks ending Feb. 25, 1996, commanding an 8.6% share of the $1.6 billion tortilla chip market.

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