Kudos to SunChips — Marketing Its Green

One of my greatest dietary weaknesses is SunChips, especially the cheese ones. I stopped buying them because, while I’m publicly known as an exercise and healthy food nut, in secret, SunChips are kryptonite to me. I don’t just eat a normal-sized serving. I eat them until I can’t fit any more into my stomach, then I lay around with a belly ache, thinking about running 10 miles and never do.

So imagine my delight when, after resisting the snack-sized bag on a friend’s counter for a full afternoon (okay, half an afternoon), having a willpower breakdown and tearing open the bag like a wild animal only to discover that the company manufactures its chips using solar power.

Imagine! SunChips are not only health food (or so they say), but they are good for the planet. Suddenly, I felt better about eating the entire bag.
After getting horizontal with the computer and feeling grateful that I’d run several miles this morning, I went to the SunChips site to see what else I might find. I discovered . . .

  • At its Modesto, CA, plant, SunChips now uses solar power to help produce 145,000 bags of snacks every day (of course, the company doesn’t say that solar power is responsible for all 145,000 bags, so that’s very clever wording);
  • 33% of every 10 1/2 oz. size bag is made with renewable, plant-based materials.
  • SunChips has donated $1 million to help build the “greenest town in America,” including a solar-powered SunChips Business Incubator, in Greensburg, Kansas, the small town devastated by a tornado in 2007; and
  • It teamed with National Geographic to create the Green Effect, a promotion designed to spur creative ideas for greening the planet. The five best green ideas will receive $20,000 in funding and will be profiled in National Geographic magazine.

After reading all of this material, I felt really good about SunChips. If I see another snack-sized bag, I will probably eat them.

What does this have to do with print marketing? A lot, actually. Because this journey began with a 31-word box on the back of the bag.

As a consumer, I think of SunChips as being marketed as health food — at least, a healthy alternative to traditional chips. As a marketer, I know that people who are into health food also tend to be more concerned than average about the planet. Therefore, SunChips’ choice to market its green initiatives right next to the Nutrition Facts panel is really smart marketing.

SunChips understands its customer base extremely well. It made smart use of the real estate on one of its most powerful marketing vehicles — its own packaging — and then built a smart Web strategy around this powerful marketing message to retain existing customers. On its website, the company also regularly ties its green initiatives to small town America and the U.S. economy by mentioning its involvement in small town initiatives and manufacturing operations. Again, that’s smart marketing.

And that’s how a SunChips bag ended upon The Inspired Economist.

Like this post? Check out all my “Greening Print Marketing” posts.

Written by Heidi Tolliver-Walker

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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