Father of America's Favorite Snack Dies at Age 84 One Day Before His Own Holiday

November 08, 2017Nov 08, 2017

Only one day shy of National Nachos Day, the man once named the "father of nachos" suddenly died. His death was peaceful, and he was surrounded by family and friends at his home in San Antonio on Sunday, according to My San Antonio

Frank Liberto, 84, was the founder of Ricos Products Co, the San Antonio company renowned in stadiums across America for introducing the nation's famous "concession nachos" in 1976. Although he may not have invented nachos, his achievement — making this iconic dish an American staple — still changed America. 

Liberto was born on February 20, 1933, in San Antonio. He attended Central Catholic High School and received his bachelor's degree in marketing from St. Mary's University in 1955. He then served in the U.S. Army. When he finished his time in the army, he took control of his family company in 1960, which would later be led by his son, Tony Liberto. It was through his business career that Liberto would create a legacy that would endure to this very day.

Liberto had always known nachos as a regional Mexican snack that had originated in a small restaurant in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. The nacho was invented by Ignacio "Nacho" Anaya, who put together the snack for the wives of U.S. soldiers stationed at Fort Duncan. The hungry wives arrived one day at the restaurant and asked for something to eat, which "Nachos" Anaya did with what little he had available in the kitchen: tortillas and cheese.

When asked what the dish was called, he answered, "Nachos." Word quickly spread and the popularity of the dish spread throughout the region.

One day, Liberto decided that he would introduce his own version of the dish through his family company at a Texas Rangers baseball game in 1976. Liberto's innovation was the cheese, a delicious and flavorful viscous sauce that could be easily dispensed in a high-volume environment with little preparation. His version of the snack introduced a cheese that didn't need to be refrigerated and had a very long shelf life.

One year later, during a Dallas Cowboys game broadcast on "Monday Night Football," the announcer Howard Cosell mentioned the dish several times. It quickly became a national sensation, and eventually turned into an iconic American dish. The massive popularity of the stadium snack quickly earned Liberto the title "father of nachos" and spread the cheesy sauce and chips into homes throughout America.

As the Washington Post put it, "Liberto took a dish that had become increasingly popular in Texas and northern Mexico and turned it into a stadium mainstay, one squirt of orange goo at a time."



Liberto's company also further developed other snacks, including popcorn, sno-cone syrups, and peanuts. The Nation Association of Concessionaries gave Liberto its "Man of the Year" award in 1997 for his tremendous contributions to the world of concession stands, movie theaters, and grocery stores. 

“Our father, Frank Liberto, was a man of integrity,” his son, Tony Liberto, said in a statement, according to a local newspaper. “He led our company with an entrepreneur spirit and a passion that had an impact on his family of employees, customers, business associates, and friends. His legacy will live on forever.”

According to Legacy.com, Liberto died one day before national nachos day, which took place on Monday, November 6. On National Nachos Day, one day after Liberto's unfortunate death, Ricos Products Co issued a twitter in honor of his life and legacy. 


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