Consider the Lady Dorito. The internet did, for a couple of days, after a podcast interview with the chief executive of PepsiCo went sideways.
On Monday night, the company had to clarify that no, it was not going to create Doritos for women with reduced crunch and less orange finger dust.
This media hysteria began, as it often does, with an apparently off-the-cuff quote, in this case from an interview with Indra Nooyi, chief executive of PepsiCo, on a Jan. 31 episode of the “Freakonomics Radio” podcast.
Ms. Nooyi told the interviewer that women did not eat Doritos the same way men did.
“They don’t like to crunch too loudly in public,” she said. “And they don’t lick their fingers generously, and they don’t like to pour the little broken pieces and the flavor into their mouth.”
She was asked whether PepsiCo — which owns Frito-Lay, the manufacturer of Doritos — was planning “a male and female version of chips.”
Ms. Nooyi responded: “It’s not a male and female as much as, ‘Are there snacks for women that can be designed and packaged differently?’ And yes, we are looking at it, and we’re getting ready to launch a bunch of them soon. For women, low-crunch, the full taste profile, not have so much of the flavor stick on the fingers, and how can you put it in a purse? Because women love to carry a snack in their purse.”
On Sunday, a British tabloid, The Sun, noticed the comments, reported Lady Doritos as fact, and from there the story spread, through syndication and aggregation to The New York Post, Business Insider and others. A quick search of Google News showed nearly 900 results for queries about the chip brand and the terms “women,” “female” and “ladies.”
Lady Doritos had become a thing, the proverbial news story that was too good to check.
Then the conversation moved to social media. A post from the website The Daily Wire spurred nearly 10,000 Facebook actions, and blogs like Scary Mommy saw interaction rates in the thousands as well, based on data from CrowdTangle, which measures social media reaction. In total, the CrowdTangle dashboard found nearly 500 Facebook posts by media outlets on Monday about Doritos for women.
It was not the good kind of interaction.
The consensus among women on Twitter? No, thanks.
Soon, PepsiCo was insisting it was all a misunderstanding.
“The reporting on a specific Doritos product for female consumers is inaccurate,” the company said in a statement released on Monday night. “We already have Doritos for women — they’re called Doritos, and they’re enjoyed by millions of people every day. At the same time, we know needs and preferences continue to evolve, and we’re always looking for new ways to engage and delight our consumers.”
Asked what Ms. Nooyi meant by “snacks for women that can be designed and packaged differently,” a spokeswoman declined to elaborate.
“I can’t yet give any more details beyond what Indra relayed in the podcast,” the spokeswoman said. “However, I will be able to in a few months.”