Frito-Lay keeps chipping away for a better snack bag

New bags for its Sun Chips brand are a welcome innovation for sustainability, but consumer concerns have the company researching ways to soften the noisy ‘crinkle.’

In a holistic package design, the creative team examines each touch point at which the consumer will come into some sort of contact with a product. When packaging teams fall short on any consumer interaction with a packaged product, the results can be less than what the marketing department anticipated.

It’s difficult enough to design packages that deliver results at the point of purchase. But the impact of packaging sometimes is especially challenging at the point of use, and it’s this latter issue that really keeps creative teams, as well as R&D, on their toes.

These thoughts come to mind when considering Frito-Lay’s new flexible bags for its Sun Chips snack brand. The idea was to create a brand that’s easy on the environment, and for that, the company comes through in shining colors. The bags are made from biodegradable plant material. Moreover, a Wall Street Journal article says, the chips inside the bags are cooked with steam from solar energy. At the point of purchase, product and package are a complete win-win.

However, the outcome becomes somewhat murky at the point of use. According to the WSJ, some consumers dislike that the bags make a loud crinkly sound.

• An Air Force pilot, using a sound meter, determined the crinkling sound of the bags was louder than the normal range of noises in his jet’s cockpit.

• At one school, a teacher admonished a student for opening her chip bag too loudly.

On one hand, the noisy crinkle works as a marketing asset. Frito-Lay promotes Sun Chips as being “crunchy,” and the packaging certainly supports that perception. But here’s another consideration: Can packages such as this one also limit distribution channels for a brand? Would a very crinkly chip bag have distribution appeal in movie theaters, for example?

While acknowledging the bags’ sustainability and marketing benefits, Frito-Lay also says it is exploring options to soften the crinkle of its Sun Chips bags

This will be a fascinating development to watch. When a package meets sustainability objectives, can what makes it such a benefit in the first place also work against the brand in the context of overall consumer appeal?

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