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Frito-Lay can market its Sun Chips as the “green” chips, because to make them, the company uses steam produced through solar energy. To enhance this image, it also has redesigned the Sun Chips bags to make them from biodegradable plant material rather than plastic, which means less waste in the landfill.

But no good intentions go unpunished. The packaging has prompted complaints about the noise created by the biodegradable bag; it sounds like someone a revving motorcycle or breaking a glass. Facebook groups now feature titles like, “Sorry but I can’t hear you over this Sun Chips bag,” and blog headlines cite, “Potato Chip Technology that Destroys Your Hearing.” Since January, when the new Sun Chip bags took the market by storm, sales have steadily decreased.

Frito-Lay is sticking with its new bags and refusing to go back to the old Sun Chip bags, which took approximately a century to degrade. If consumers are embarrassed by the disturbances of eating from the crinkly bag, Frito-Lay has an answer. The slogan, “Yes, the bag is loud. That’s what change sounds like,” now appears on all Sun Chip bags to reiterate the benefits for the environment.

As this experience has shown, not all attempts to make a product more sustainable or benefit the environment are well received. If the product does not inconvenience consumers, they are happy to use green products, but if they need to make some form of sacrifice, their response can be lukewarm at best.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What would you predict: Will Frito-Lay be able to convince consumers to use the new bag, or will it go back to offering the old bags?

Suzanne Vranica, “Snack Attack: Chip Eaters Make Noise About a Crunchy Bag,” The Wall Street Journal, August 18, 2010.