retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that Frito-Lay’s Sun Chips are creating a lot of noise these days - but not because of the quality or environmental purity of the food.

Rather, it is the bags that are causing a problem. Its newest bags are made out of biodegradable plant material instead of plastic, and apparently make “loud crackling sounds” that some compare to a "revving motorcycle" and "glass breaking." The Journal notes that “a Facebook group called ‘SORRY BUT I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THIS SUN CHIPS BAG’ has attracted 29,949 fans, with many posting outraged comments.”

Here’s how the Journal frames the story:

“The Sun Chip bag hit store shelves in January and was available nationwide by April. Sales have been in decline, posting year-on-year decreases each month since February (excluding Wal-Mart and some other retailers), according to SymphonyIRI, a Chicago market-research firm.

“A Frito-Lay spokesman said: ‘There are a lot of potential factors that are playing a role and we are looking at all those things.’ He accepted packaging could be one of those factors. The company has received some complaints about the packaging, he said, but most feedback has been positive.

“The original bags, made from polymers such as polypropylene and polyethylene, weren't recyclable. ‘They are not designed to degrade,’ says Brad Rodgers, Frito-Lay's North American manager of sustainable packaging. ‘Depending on what scientific research you read, it could be more than a 100 years’.”

It took a lot of time and effort to come up with the new bags, the paper notes, and the current problems are similar to those suffered by Frito parent PepsiCo when it redesigned the packaging for its Tropicana juice brand - people couldn’t recognize the new design and sales plummeted, forcing Pepsi to revert to the earlier, more familiar design.
KC's View:
Sometimes you can’t get a break ... even when you try to do the right thing.

But the real lesson here comes from that Facebook page, demonstrating how passionately some people feel about the CPG products they buy and consume. The complaints may be annoying, but their passion and engagement should be treasured.