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Au Contraire: Frito-Lay Goes Au Naturel

Posted by Sheila Shayon on January 6, 2011 04:00 PM

Guilt-free snacking? No. Less guilt? Yes!

BC's Dale Buss noted that PepsiCo's Frito-Lay division had unloaded its True North snack brand, an indication that the PepsiCo-owned Frito-Lay group was struggling to wrap its labels around health snacks.

While it's not exactly donning Birkenstocks, Frito-Lay tells brandchannel that its new year resolution is to go on a health kick, with a cross-brand commitment to produce more than half its products from all-natural ingredients by the end of this year. The move is motivated by consumer demand, with taste the top consideration, a spokesperson comments.

Frito-Lay North America is remaking more than six dozen varieties of product with all natural ingredients. Affected brands include all the flavors of Lay’s potato chips, Tostitos tortilla chips, Sun Chips multigrain snacks (which made headlines with its noisy compostable bags last year), Baked! snacks, and Rold Gold pretzels.  

The change to all natural ingredients with no artificial flavors or preservatives and no synthetic ingredients like monosodium glutamate (MSG), will affect about 50% of all Frito-Lay product — and millions of loyal, snacking consumers. Barbecue-flavored Lay's potato chips, for example, will have an average of 25% less sodium. 

Frito-Lay will use digital media to drive consumers to its Facebook and individual brands' FB pages, making it the company with the broadest portfolio of consumer products that include a Facebook URL to date.

BC spoke with Frito-Lay spokesperson, Aurora Gonzalez, about the move.

BC:  What's been the biggest challenge in changing to all natural ingredients? 

AG: Consumers know and love our products.  And while we know consumers are looking for all-natural foods, we had to ensure that these products made with all natural ingredients deliver the great Frito-Lay taste that consumers expect.

What are the cost implications for Frito-Lay? For the consumer? 

While we can’t share figures, Frito-Lay recognizes that consumers are looking for all-natural foods and so we’ve made a significant investment to convert to all natural ingredients in three of our major brands — Lay's potato chips, Sun Chips multigrain snacks and Tostitos tortilla chips.

Can snack foods ever be healthy/nutritious - or is this change to make them less harmful? 

To be clear, the switch to all natural ingredients on Lay's potato chips, SunChips multigrain snacks and Tostitos tortilla chips isn't about health and wellness. We made the switch because consumers are increasingly looking for snacks made with all natural ingredients.  And while the conversion to all natural ingredients generally did not impact the nutritionals, there were some positive exceptions. 

Apart from the all natural ingredients conversion, Frito-Lay also has an overall health and wellness strategy that includes the use of only healthier oils (sunflower, corn or soybean), lower sodium options (Lightly Salted Lay's and Lightly Salted Fritos have 50% less sodium than the original products) and whole grain snack options (Sun Chips with 18 grams of whole grains; most Tostitos products with 8 grams of whole grains).

Commenting on the move, Gene Dillard, president of FoodWise Group, drew a comparison to McDonald's changing cooking oils. "At one point, that was perceived to be a health benefit, but french fries are still french fries and potato chips are still potato chips," he said. 

Frito-Lay products "are viewed as a snack that's not necessarily nutritious," he added. "Anything they can do to improve that impression would probably be well-received by consumers." 

Snack on, MacDuff.

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