Corporate Social Responsibility SunChips compostable

Published on October 2nd, 2010 | by Heidi Tolliver-Walker

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Frito Lay to Pull Compostable Packaging . . . for Now

Several weeks back, I posed the question whether the debate over the loudness of SunChips’ new compostable bag had helped or hurt sales. After all, thousands more people now know that SunChips bags are 100% compostable thanks to all the chatter. I wondered how the chatter impacted FritoLay (makers of SunChips).

Recently, I got my answer.

I went to the FritoLay website to email a question. It wasn’t about the loudness of the bag. I just wanted to know in very general terms what the bag was made from. What was the primary ingredient of the substrate? They didn’t tell me, but I did learn interesting. I learned that SunChips is pulling its compostable packaging on all flavors of SunChips . . . for now.

Here is the response I received:

Hi, Heidi,

Thank you for contacting Frito-Lay to share your thoughts about the SunChips compostable package.

Frito-Lay is taking steps to improve the SunChips 100% compostable packaging launched in early 2010. The new steps help address consumers’ feedback about the bag’s noise level, while continuing to build on the environmental benefits.

While Frito-Lay works to develop a next-generation compostable package, SunChips Original snacks will remain in the current 100% compostable package, while the other SunChips flavors will be transitioned back to their traditional packaging. Once the improved compostable bag is ready, it will be featured in the SunChips Original flavor, allowing Frito-Lay to monitor consumers’ response.

As with many leading-edge technologies, there is an ongoing process of improvement and refinement. We are confident the approach we are taking will allow us to continue our sustainability progress, while also showing our consumers that we are committed to responding to their needs and preferences.

Best regards,
Frito-Lay Consumer Affairs

Wow! That was quick. It is very expensive to develop and then switch over to new packaging for a consumer foods company. Clearly, Frito Lay over-estimated the public’s commitment to sustainability. True commitment means you’re willing to sustain some inconvenience. SunChips’ customers clearly weren’t willing to do that.

What’s unfortunate is that I’ve crunched the bag. Really, it’s not that bad. For Frito Lay to revert back to its old packaging, consumer protests must have been substantial. Although I’ve reported on surveys showing consumers’ commitment to green products, it seems that — in the real world — that commitment only exists as long as it doesn’t cause them any inconvenience.  But then, what kind of commitment is that?





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About the Author

Heidi Tolliver-Walker has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor, and author for nearly 20 years. She is known for her meticulous research and no-nonsense perspective. In addition to having written thousands of industry articles for top industry publications, she and Richard Romano have been the face of the well-respected industry research firm The Industry Measure (TrendWatch Graphic Arts) for many years. In her more than 13-year tenure with the firm, she has written countless reports on digital printing, 1:1 (personalized) printing, Web-to-print, personalized URLs, and other hot industry applications. She is also a long-time contributing editor and columnist for Printing News, for which she writes two monthly columns, including "Personal Effects," which features monthly analysis of 1:1 (personalized) printing case studies. She is also the author of three titles for the National Association of Printing Leadership: Designer's Printing Companion, Ink & Color: A Printer's Guide, and Diversifying Via Value-Added Services. As a small, niche publisher (Strong Tower Publishing), she is active in utilizing these technologies in her own business, as well.



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  • Steve

    I couldn’t get the bag to compost. It’s been 18 months and looks good as new. It also doesn’t recycle. It’s a very loud package that sounds like thunder when you open it. There is a very good reason they are pulling the packaging.

    • Stove

      How has it been 18 months? It says right in the statement

      “Frito-Lay is taking steps to improve the SunChips 100% compostable packaging launched in early 2010″

      • Stave

        Well, obviously Steve has perfected time travel and has already journeyed into the future to witness what events will transpire over the course of the next year and a half. And I guess his compost pile was top-of-the-list, right Steve?

        Hey Steve. while you’re in the distant future, could you tell me the winning lotto numbers for the next 12 months? Thanks, appreciate it.

    • Heidi

      I’m actually doing a public post on this. I buried the SunChips bag and the Boulder Canyon bag in my compost pile and took a picture. I’m going to update on IE every week. http://tinyurl.com/29o2lf8

  • Someguy

    Probably it is made from corn. In my hometown there is a massive ADM plant. Just recently they have been doing and building a massive facility to make biodegradable plastic from corn. While, I am positive, that it could be one of many things, as big of a company ADM is, I would say it is likely made from corn.

  • now_deaf

    It was only a matter of time. I love Sun Chips and their green initiative, but the bag is SO EXCRUCIATINGLY LOUD. The first time I saw “100% compostable,” I thought “Wow, that’s really cool!” Then I picked up the bag and thought the store was falling down. Every time I wanted to enjoy these chips, I had to warn those in the vicinity (and sometimes the neighbors).

    • 95% deaf

      I lost my hearing due to these chips and am now 95% deaf in both ears, so I can feel your pain. I just started learning sign language last week and yesterday learned how to sign “I’m the saddest person in the world.”

  • Gmail

    If a loud bag bothers you, CHANGE YOUR FUCKING PRIORITIES.

    You people are so superficial.

    • blargh

      Hey they crinkle up to 95 decibels, officially in the range that can cause permanent ear damage, I’m sorry my ability to hear isn’t important to you.

      • Really?

        Unless you’re listening to 20 minutes of constant crinkling, you’re not going to get hearing damage from it. Stop being a pussy.

        • Dfjk

          He’s not a pussy… just a pig. Not all of us can savor a bag of our favorite chips in less than 20 minutes.

        • planeteater

          yes you truely are a pussy

      • Facepalm

        Pour the fucking chips in a bowl.

  • Weirdal0490

    wow, this is just incredible. people never cease to amaze me. you cant be caught up in things like that when people are trying to make the world better. get over it, its loud. but it goes to show, if you whine enough, even about something as idiotic as the noise level of a snack wrapping, something might get done. it will be interesting to see if the new bag is less thunderous, but i can say i dont care. keep the old bag but still bring out the new. as for me, i had a blast with the compostable bag. walked around the store telling my friends saying (quite loudly also) that i found the sun chips, then proceeded to crumple the bag.

  • Asholo

    I can’t remember, but some chip company already found a bag design that makes the bag nearly silent, while still being compostable. Besides, the bags are clocked at 95 decibels, which is sufficient level to cause hearing loss. Yes it’s good for the environment, but it’s bad for humans. They’ll develop a quieter compostable bag. So quit bitching. PS – Gmail, it’s not superficial to want a bag that doesn’t damage your hearing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Ryan/100000508190068 Scott Ryan

    Too many complaints from people trying to eat sunchips as a midnight snack apparently :p

    • carter

      these comments are so funny/stupid. wtf do people think these days

  • Kenjamin

    95dB is only damaging if the noise level is sustained. As in over 4 hours of constant exposure to 95dB. Opening a fucking bag isn’t going to damage your hearing at all. A lawnmower is 107dB. I guess we should all stop cutting our lawns. Symphonies are in excess of 95dB. I’ve never had damaged hearing from sitting through an hour long symphony.

    Check your facts before you start spitting bullshit talking points out of your ass.

    • Donald J Quixote

      Kenjamin, you have clearly demonstrated your ignorance of the particulars of sensory and perception. You know nothing about MY ears. My ears, as many other people’s ears, can be hyper sensitive at times and particularly susceptible to noises with this many decibels at this pitch. This is very common in today’s society. Yes, others may not be affected as such. But you, Kenjamin, should consider yourself lucky that your ears are so strong and hearty. Do you have particularly big ears? It sounds like you take your powerful ears for granted. Not everybody is so lucky! And boasting about it as you do, well that just makes matters worse. Shame on you KENJaminn! Maybe they should call you, Cinnamon instead.

      • Seriously?

        Amazing. Truly amazing. Tell me, Donald, how do you do anything if your hearing is that bad? Hair cuts with an electric razor must be out of question, due to the proximity of your ear. Obviously you don’t mow the lawn. Do you live in a city? I certainly hope not, lest you go deaf from traffic noise. If a bag of chips is enough to make you go deaf, then if I were you I’d avoid being outside all together. Too many random, loud events could cause excess trauma to your already sensitive ears.

        Here’s a pro tip for you: if the bag is too loud, POUR IT IN A BOWL. Bowls don’t make noise, having been perfected over the years for SILENCE and ease of use. And the best part is: it’s green! That’s right! You can have your chips and eat them too! Amazing!

      • MASIF

        So because maybe 1 out of every 100 people (most of whom dont even buy chips) have “hyper sensitive” ears, a company doing a good thing for the environment by reducing their impact on the earth are going to change back to reduced noise packets and therefore put the future of the planet and my childrens future in jeopardy??? Im sorry, but NO, your hearing is not that important to me, or any other logical person. Stop being such a bitch, get a life and realise there are bigger problems than the noise made by chip packets. For a guy who has “hyper sensitive ears” and says he cares about his health so much you must eat a lot of fucking fatty chips for this to be a problem worth complaining about.

        Im just sorry you dont have a “hyper sensitive” stomach.

      • Guest

        Then we should go back to Facepalm’s suggestion, pour the chips into a bowl or napkin. Cut the bag open with scissors or a blade so it doesn’t make as much noise to heart your sensitive ears.

    • Anonymous

      Lawnmowers and orchestras are things we expect to be loud. This is why it is recommended to wear earmuffs while mowing, and concert halls are arranged to spread out the sound so the audience is not directly blasted by the waves.
      Just as I would not start a lawnmower or hit a timpani in my home or office, I do not want to have to put on protective ear covering or walk into an open theater for my afternoon snack.

      • ACTUALLY…

        Actually concert halls are designed to disperse the audio in such a manner that reverberations are cancelled and that each audience member can hear the full orchestra even right at the back or in a corner. You will still be subjected to 100dB+ levels for quite some time, especially if amplification is used as well.

  • Eat Faster

    If it takes you 4 hours to eat a bag of chips (the recommended allowed time of exposure to 95dB per day) then you deserve to go deaf.

    • No Fatties

      If you’re spending 4 hours a day eating chips I suspect you have “bigger” problems to worry about.

  • LOL :)

    LOL these comments are priceless. IT’S A CHIP BAG. We have a bag of them at our house and not have I once heard anyone complain about it. And if people in your household are experiencing hearing damage from eating them too much or like a rabid epileptic bear, you may need to reevaluate your eating habits/family members.

  • vgi

    I took one of these bags to a rock concert. I got a place quite far in the back, so I thought I could savor my new comestible in relative peace.

    Needless to say, when my fingernail was nearly touching the bag, a sudden roar started bursting from within the package. The band stopped playing and suddenly, two thousand eyepairs were fixed on me and my SunChips bag.

    I opened the bag.

    The resulting soundwave moved, faster than light, into the stage where it fed into the band’s microphones and CAST OUT a voice of a million decibels that ripped a hole in the dark matter, opening a straight passage FROM HELL to ours. Gods turned their face to the sound and massive streams of blood flew from the ears and nose. The creatures of hell and all the Gods screamed a terrible wail.

    But the wail was not as loud as the bag.

  • Bgbobjohnson

    My god Americans are lazy assholes.

  • BRILLIANT MARKETER

    HOW ABOUT MAKING IT OUT OF FUCKING PAPER

  • Itstime

    I am in awe at the priorities of people. Just look up statistics at the amount of waste that is in our landfills. At least this company is trying to jump on the new wave and create products that are environmentally friendly. People would rather have a less noisy chip bag than a planet that is healthier. Sad. Very sad. I hope everyone enjoys the less noisy chip bag. Someone might want to keep one of those “noisy” chip bags and show it to the future grandchildren explaining with vague apologies exactly why that bag was of more importance than their health. Just a thought.

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  • Perspective

    Who cares one way or the other? You people are angry and crazy. I feel very sorry for you.

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  • Kindhearts

    It suggests a lack of awareness on the part of so many people. Perhaps an educational commercial that points out how awesome a compostable bag really is would generate some excitement, increasing the cool-factor of the package and, not inconsequentially to Frito-Lay, Frito-Lay’s products.

  • Salaud80

    Stupid fat fucking Americans!

  • Malkfather

    I want some loud chips! I wish we had these in Aus so I could eat chips at night and be louder than the dog next door

  • Hunkychunky

    I work over at Newark Airport loading luggage on to flights and often have to get pretty close to the 747s as they take off. I don’t enjoy the loud noise, but they’re aren’t a lot of jobs in my area, and I’ll take what I can get.

    About a week ago, my wife packed me a bag of Frito Lay chips with this “compostable packaging” in my lunch.

    As I went to open the bag, my finger accidentally slipped and poke the packaging. Needless to say, my ears started bleeding instantly. My buddy was knocked flat on his ass and several of the pilots canceled their take-offs because they thought a bomb went off.

    Unfortunately, I lost my job that day. My boss told me that several of the pregnant women boarding their flights had experienced misscarriages as a result of the 1000dB blast. My wife left me a week later. Now I only eat Doritos.

  • Lynneranne

    OMG…. I have not seen nor heard these bags, but hearing the comments it makes me want to get some and head up to my local mall. This is honestly THE funniest thing I have heard in a while… Its making me LOVE SunChips!!

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  • http://gravatar.com/leefrancis00 Kendall

    Jeeezaz….! “Why don’t we make them out of paper?” good point that one. Reminds me of a small anecdote I’ve heard about the space race between Russian and the US at the tail end of the Cold War. I don’t know how true this is, but it is a vehicle for a damn good point, that shouldn’t be missed for the sake of petty technicalities:
    NASA spent millions of dollars developing a PEN that would work in zero gravity; because in that environment the ink has no force to move it down, therefore, non-working pen. The Russian solution was to use a PENCIL.

    ~OR~

    If you’re a hammer, all your problems tend to look like nails.

    Why wasn’t the production of these composted bags halted at the first prototype; and altered to make them less capable of ‘damaging peoples hearing’

    My guess is its really not that bad…

    Thunderous bags of chips! HA!

  • http://twitter.com/Interplas Interplas (@Interplas)

    Eco-friendly packaging/bags as the research shows are what consumers want. I do not see anywhere making mention of using a focus group to test these bags before going to market. Surly this would have prevented this all together?

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