retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, MNB took note of a Wall Street Journal report 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’.”

I was a little surprised by the reaction to this story.

MNB user Jeanne Colleluori wrote:

My sister has a positive opinion on the new Sun Chips packaging - she says it’s part of her diet plan…. There’s no way she can sneak any chips without others in the family hearing her! Keeps her honest.

Another MNB user wrote:

Disclaimer, I don't eat a lot of chips but OMG, these are the most horrible bags -  yes, great for the environment but they're not only loud, they feel disgusting. Eating is a total sensory experience and Frito-Lay missed it on this one!

And, from another MNB user:

I’m not one of the 29,949 airing their complaints on Facebook, however, I am one of many that has stopped purchasing Sun Chips. In a world of nearly unlimited choice, the bag was more than annoying enough for me to switch. I liked the effort to develop something more sustainable which should have aligned well with a healthier chip image, but honestly, the 2 times I purchased post-repackage I transferred to ziplock bags. Twice was enough.

That said, I don’t agree at all with the link to Pepsi/Tropicana’s awful, indistinguishable packaging. Did you stop by a super market after they introduced that ‘modern, clean’ packaging? There were zero visual clues as to the difference between products. The result: 3-4 cooler doors of what looked like the same sku. Lesson learned: don’t make shopping harder. Not when people are increasingly crunched for time and already hate spending time in the refrigerated section (myself excluded – I lived and breathed the dairy case for several years and it’s my first stop when I’m visiting stores).

In both instances, a lot of time and money were used to develop new packaging and in both cases, companies ignored the voice of their buyers and customers in forcing what they decided was a great decision into the market. The result of not testing and understanding your customer: millions of dollars lost. A good lesson for everyone – innovation is key to long-term success, but innovation without the customer in mind is a waste. Take the time to understand what your customer wants and ensure you’re making improvements, not changes.

And MNB user Dave Vosteen wrote:

Could care less if they are bio-degradable. People need to quit worrying about making everything green. Ridiculous waste of time and money.

But MNB user Cheri Quast demurred:

When I read the Sun Chip’s bag article that you posted, the first thing that came to my mind is how much of a whiner some of the American people have become. To actually get upset over how much noise a bag of chips makes when you pick it up or touch it is ridiculous in my mind. We constantly have noise coming at us in all kinds of different directions. Between televisions, computers, radios, iPods, etc, we are constantly bombarded by noise and therefore to complain because a bag of chips makes too much noise when you touch it is stupid in my mind. I bet if you compare the amount of time someone spends holding a Sun Chips bag versus how often they are listening to one or more of the mediums listed above, you would probably find a huge difference between the two percentages. No wonder people from other countries are so critical of the U.S. and in this instance I cannot blame them. It is a stupid and frivolous complaint and compared to other things, I do not understand how this is even on anyone’s radar.
You are right; Sun Chips cannot get a break when they are trying to do something right which is too bad.

Two other quick emails, on different subjects...

I thought that MNB user Ellen Feldman-Ornato mad an excellent point in addressing the story about how the recession has trained consumers to wait before making back-to-school purchases in hope of getting better prices:

I don’t think the recession has trained consumers to wait; retailers have. In the last 10 years every department store switched from an “everyday fair pricing” to the high-low/deep discount strategy. As the department stores went in that direction smaller retailers followed suit so they’d have something to talk about in their marketing. Coupons, Midnight Madness and ridiculous store hours ensued. The stores trained the consumers to NEVER pay full price, except at boutiques where waiting means the customer risks missing out entirely.

So this is the “new normal,” on steroids – an exacerbation of a trend that leaves the retailers getting exactly what they’ve been training their customers to do and, unfortunately, sitting on merchandise that should be moving seasonally.

So true. We have met the enemy, and it is us.

And, this email from MNB user Gary Smith:

Two weeks ago on the way to Yellowstone, my father and I stopped at a Crown Burger in Salt Lake City (as I have made your best hamburger list my personal Bucket List). The Crown Burger was excellent (I look forward to the other ones on the list), but my father kept wanting an In-N-Out, which he had on a CA trip three years ago. From my father's reaction, I concur with Sansolo, even though I have never had an In-n-Out, but have had Five Guys. The Crown Burger beat Five Guys by a substantial margin. I suspect the In-N-Out would, too.

I love the idea that MNB has helped create Gary’s “bucket list.” Our pleasure.
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