January 19, 2011 in Features

Some Frito-Lay chips going natural

About half of company’s products will no longer include artificial ingredients
Melissa Repko Dallas Morning News

Snack eaters may soon feel a little less guilty when downing a bag of potato chips.

About half of PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay Inc. snacks are going all-natural, the Plano, Texas-based company announced last month. Product lines, including Lay’s potato chips, Tostitos tortilla chips, SunChips multigrain snacks and Baked snacks, will be made without artificial flavors, artificial preservatives or MSG, and marked with a stamp on store shelves.

Retailers are beginning to stock up on the new products, and more will be available in the first quarter of 2011. The company launched its national marketing campaign during the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, company spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez said.

The change is part of a company-wide effort to move toward more health-conscious products and increase transparency by telling the product’s “seed-to-shelf” story, Gonzalez said.

“Everybody wants to understand where their food comes from,” she said. “Our brands are well-loved brands, but we recognize that even though they are familiar, people want to know where their Lay’s potato chips come from.”

With the all-natural ingredients, seasoned products, such as barbecue-flavored Lay’s potato chips, will have an average of 25 percent less sodium, she said.

The company’s website features photos of fresh, chopped tomatoes and a farm that grows potatoes. Gonzales said that more consumers are consulting the website about products that meet their dietary needs — such as gluten-free or low-sodium snacks.

The strategy aligns with food marketing trends of trying to dispel the “mystery” behind packaged products, said Gene Dillard, president of FoodWise Group, a food marketing company in Carrollton, Texas.

“People read labels a lot, and many food labels are filled with chemical-sounding preservatives and ingredients,” he said. “People want to believe there’s an actual nutritious food they are buying.”

Dillard compared the change to McDonald’s changing cooking oils.

“At one point, that was perceived to be a health benefit, but french fries are still french fries and potato chips are still potato chips,” he said.

Frito-Lay products “are viewed as a snack that’s not necessarily nutritious,” he said. “Anything they can do to improve that impression would probably be well-received by consumers.”

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