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?

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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