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SunChips to use compostable PLA bags

Frito-Lay starts with a PLA outer layer now and a promise for compostable bags in 2010.

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SunChips, Plano, TX-based Frito-Lay’s popular line of multigrain snacks, announced that in 2010 it will introduce the first fully compostable snack chip bag made from plant-based materials.  The change is designed to significantly improve the environmental impact of its packaging.

This month, the SunChips brand is taking the first step towards this transformational packaging. The outer layer of packaging on 10 1/2 oz size SunChips snacks bags will be made with a compostable, plant-based renewable material, polylactic acid (PLA).   By Earth Day 2010, PepsiCo's Frito-Lay North America division plans to rollout a package for its SunChips snacks where all layers are made from PLA material so the package is 100% compostable.

“We know environmentally-friendly packaging is a priority for our SunChips consumer,” said Gannon Jones, vice president, marketing, Frito-Lay North America. “Today’s launch of packaging made with 1/3 renewable materials is an important first step towards having a fully compostable chip bag in market by Earth Day 2010.”

Current snack food packaging has three layers: a printed outer layer with packaging visuals/graphics, an inner layer, which serves as a barrier to maintain the quality and integrity of the product, and a middle layer that joins the other two layers. When the packaging is 100% compostable, it will fully decompose in about 14 weeks when placed in a hot, active compost pile or bin.  NatureWorks LLC ( ) is providing the PLA, which is trademarked under the Ingeo name.

“Packaging is clearly the most visible interaction consumers have with Frito-Lay’s brands,” says Jay Gehring, vice president, packaging R&D, Frito-Lay North America.  “To make packaging that would interact differently in the environment we had to change the composition of packaging and invent key technologies. Using plant-based renewable materials, we have a promising solution that will transform packaging and significantly impact the billions of snack food bags produced annually.”

Once the 100% compostable bag is introduced, the company anticipates the switch will lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the production of the packaging and the elimination of petroleum-based packaging material.
Over the past few years, Frito-Lay’s packaging initiatives have made some significant strides. This includes reducing the amount of plastic in packaging by 10% over the last five years, which eliminates 12 million pounds of materials annually used to make the snack bags. In addition, Frito-Lay will be the first snack food company to fund the collection and upcycling of its used packaging through a program in conjunction with TerraCycle.

To inform consumers about the new packaging initiatives, the brand will be communicating through traditional marketing efforts, including print, TV and digital advertising.  As part of the current packaging change, the front panel of the current 10 1/2 oz size SunChips package features a callout, “Renewable materials make up 33% of this bag.” 

To communicate the next improvement, the digital strategy includes a video showing how the bag decomposes over 14 weeks.  Also, samples of the 100% compostable material will be distributed at major retailers across the country and as part of a special People magazine ad.

The launch of PLA packaging is yet another step in the SunChips brand’s sustainability journey.  On Earth Day 2008, the SunChips brand celebrated a major milestone by inaugurating a solar concentrator field at Frito-Lay’s Modesto, California facility.  There, the power of the sun is harnessed to help in the production of SunChips snacks. The Modesto plant is one of seven Frito-Lay plants across the country that makes SunChips snacks.

The packaging campaign is being launched with the support of multiple partners including Hornall Anderson Design Works ( which is involved in the packaging.

This packaging innovation is line with the commitment by PepsiCo, Frito-Lay’s parent, to reduce the company's impact on the environment through water, energy and packaging initiatives.


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