The Chip Conundrum: Taking noisy bags off the shelves.

Photo by anotherkindofdrew |

Green marketing is a tool that is truly gaining momentum among corporations - and Frito-Lay is no exception. The company jumped on this bandwagon when they altered chip production plants to be powered by landfill methane gas. The company received a tremendous amount of positive feedback and publicity surrounding this green initiative and decided to take it a step further, making their packaging eco-friendly as well.

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, this past April, Frito-Lay Sun Chips launched the world’s first 100 percent compostable bag. The company spent over one hundred thousand USD researching and developing the new plastic bag, made from renewable organic material. The bag promises to decompose in any active compost pile in 12-14 weeks. 

But Frito-Lay went too far. After the launch of this new biodegradable bag, the company saw an immediate 11% drop in sales as consumers complained that the bag was far too noisy. This disruptive snack started a social upheaval expressed through a Facebook group entitled,  “Sorry But I Can’t Hear you Over This Sun Chips Bag”, with over 47, 000 members. Consumers found they could no longer enjoy their favorite chips in a library, church service, or in the waiting room at a doctor’s office without being immensely inconsiderate.   

In response to this consumer discontent, Frito-Lay has chosen to revert back to the quieter, more “considerate” plastic chip bag. Although this plastic can take hundreds of years to degrade, consumers can once again actually hear themselves getting fatter. With the chip world back on axis and the hum of arteries again at the force, sales have increased 20 %. 

I fear that the future of implementing environmental public policy change is bleak. Instead of boycotting a product because of its destructive manufacturing practices, North American consumers are refusing a ruffling chip bag, regardless of its biodegradable capabilities. What hope does actual policy change like carbon taxes, CO2 reduction, and climate change mitigation have in facing public ridicule, or worse, a Facebook group? It would appear the priorities of public consumers are farther away from the kind of substantial change the environmental movement is crying out for. 

If I have left you feeling completely hopeless, I should mention that Frito - Lay has decided to keep producing the disruptive chip bag for one of their flavours – so please, choose your Sun Chips wisely. Or, if you are like myself, and you have already been stereotyped as a tree hugging “granola kid”, then why not embrace the name, and stick to mixed nuts and raisins.