Frito Bets You Can’t Just Eat One Healthier Chip

Discussion
May 04, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Frito-Lay is betting that consumers won’t be able to eat only one chip now that the company has announced it is going to produce Lay’s and Ruffles cooked in NuSun sunflower oil instead of cottonseed oil.


The change in how the chips will be made will drop the saturated fat content in the chip by 66 percent. The latest innovation comes three years after Frito-Lay removed trans fats from its salty snack products.


The move, however, does not come without risks. Martin Lindstrom, an international brand consultant told USA Today, “Some people will ask: Why did you change my favorite product?” Even if the product continues to taste the same as before, he said, “Many consumers will change their perception of the taste the moment they hear it’s healthier.”


For its part, Frito-Lay believes that the new healthier chip will be a hit with consumers, not only because of the reduction in trans fats but because they won’t notice any change in taste.


Lora DeVuono, group vice president of marketing for Frito-Lay, said, “This is transformational for the Lay’s business. It’s right for the consumer and right for our future.”


Moderator’s Comment: Will Frito-Lay have a hit with its new sunflower oil cooked chips? Will other branded manufacturers soon follow? What will this
mean for the private label chip business?
– George Anderson –
Moderator


Lay’s chips away at ‘bad’ fat with new oil – USA Today

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11 Comments on "Frito Bets You Can’t Just Eat One Healthier Chip"


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Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

Somewhere I read that Frito-Lay has no less than 70 varieties on offer. Clock up another one. Although I agree entirely with the two main themes of today’s discussion – people will try it once and people will repeat purchase only if the taste is what they expect – I can’t see that this product is directed at anything other than self-preservation. What’s one more product when you already have 70? Taking heed of consumer claims that they want healthier food (never mind healthy as long as it’s healthier) and industry claims that they are doing everything they can to satisfy consumer demands is a guaranteed win win position. Great publicity if nothing else. And if customers like the product, all the better for the bottom line which is, really, all that matters in the long and short run.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

Lay’s strengths: superb distribution and innovation. If there’s one snack food company with the capability to make the healthier formula into a winner, it’s Frito-Lay. I suspect they’d be best off not emphasizing the change since their most committed consumers (I almost wrote “heaviest users”) are unlikely to be health-driven. As everyone else commented, the product is taste-driven.

Ben Ball
Guest
14 years 9 months ago
Oil is a huge contributor to the final taste profile of snack foods, and chips are particularly susceptible due to the relatively bland flavor profile of the potato. In fact, most of what you taste is salt, oil and the “carmelized potato” that results from the frying process. (Think of the charred crust of a grilled steak.) Moving to sunflower oil will have an impact on the taste profile of the product, but not one most consumers would be able to detect in the “double blind taste testing” methods typically used. Most consumers simply don’t have that level of organoleptic sensitivity to oils. But if you TELL them the oil is changed, you can bet they will THINK they notice the difference. So FL walks a fine line here. They could simply move to the healthier oil (and yes, sunflower oil has been a known and sometimes used alternative for years) and safely assume most won’t notice the change. But that would forego the potential marketing benefits of today’s more health conscious consumer. It’s a… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
14 years 9 months ago
Is the American public to believe that Frito-Lay has moved above the heavenly clouds and is bringing the sunshine of health to the marketplace with sunflower oiled chips? Hasn’t this change in cooking oils been available to Frito-Lay for years but never utilized? Now a FL marketing guru projects this is “transformational for the Lay’s business. It is right for the consumer and right for the future.” You betcha! Perhaps this another way of saying “there’s growing pressure for a healthier chip and sales are not what we want so we’ll market a change to sunflower oil.” To this chip lover, this change seems expedient and panders to the consumers’ rising health concerns which is affecting the sale flow of such products. This move is further enhanced by former President Clinton’s current high-profile push to eliminate sugar-based sodas in American’s schools. What will be the result? All chips producers will join suit and consumers will continue to crunch away on the sunflower oiled product and get “healthier” — chip by chip.
Dan Nelson
Guest
Dan Nelson
14 years 9 months ago

My hat’s off to Frito lay for taking this approach, and if, as is their claim, the consumer will not see any taste / flavor distortion then they will win and their competitors will be forced to follow.

Just take a look at the changes in sodas sold with sugar and with sugar substitutes, and you’ll easily see the consumer gets it. How about the beer industry with more taste /less calories! Cereals are another example of healthful changes made and prompted that the shopper quickly adapts to.

Consumers are becoming more mindful of the importance of nutrition and self health management everyday, with skyrocketing healthcare costs and loss of insurance for many. That’s why the savvy manufacturers who see and understand this consumer mindset will win with less fat, same flavor ideas….

Jeff Davis
Guest
Jeff Davis
14 years 9 months ago

Removing trans fats didn’t alter the taste. If this NuSun sunflower oil doesn’t either, then it will be a hit and the competition will certainly follow suit.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

This is nothing but positive. Obviously if the taste is compromised, all bets are off. But this fits right in with the national trend to more organic marketing in the supermarkets, and the steady movement of the American population into higher and higher socioeconomic brackets – with concomitant concern about personal well being.

As a side note, many years ago we conducted a study of “all natural” potato chips vs. the regular variety. We found that those preferring the natural chips actually expected them to not taste as good, but preferred them for their “naturalness” alone. However, that is a tiny fringe market – as others have noted, taste rules! (De gustibus non disputandum – There is no accounting for taste.)

Kai Clarke
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

Frito Lay needs to be very cautious to not have another “new Coke” scenario on their hands. Their customers are very tuned to the taste of their products and purchase these because of this taste, not how healthy they are. Double blind taste tests, multiple region focus groups, continuous quality sampling, and other taste confirmation studies need to reinforce that there is no change in taste. Perhaps just as important, FL needs to be certain that there is no change in cost. Just because an item is healthier doesn’t mean that customers will prefer it. The CPG landscape is littered with “better” products which didn’t make the grade. Perhaps the best test would be to leave both of the products on the shelf in some test SMSA markets and see if this changes customer’s purchasing habits.

Matt Werhner
Guest
Matt Werhner
14 years 9 months ago

Of course there will be some consumer backlash but Frito-Lay is correct in betting the number of consumers they gain will be more than they lose. Remember, the current trend of healthy offerings in the foodservice industry is driven by consumer demand. The only catch: the product must taste the same. When offering a healthy version of an established food product, a “different” taste is risky.

Karin Miller
Guest
Karin Miller
14 years 9 months ago
From the observation of someone who rarely partakes in the pleasures of the potato chip, it seems that Frito-Lay has gained market share with previous introductions of healthy products, such as Baked Lays, which seem to be holding space. For this product update, Frito-Lay is addressing the subset of consumers still buying the traditional fried chips, choosing the less healthy version of their product (vs. Baked), presumably for taste. Therefore the potential for skyrocketing sales because the product is “less unhealthy” are probably rather limited. A new recipe that reduces health risks but does not change the taste or experience in any way sounds like a pretty safe bet, though it will have to be positioned carefully and their claims of no change must be accurate. In the world of fried potato chips, I think this is the perception: 1) The important flavors in the product are derived from the potato, salt and other flavorings. 2) The cooking oil is an ingredient necessary in the manufacturing process to create the finished product; 3) The oil… Read more »
Warren Thayer
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

It’s sure to get trial, but it’ll depend on taste, naturally. I don’t share Lindstrom’s fears; many products have already made the changeover to no trans-fats, without any change whatever in sales. I think consumers have come to expect formulation changes as we learn more about health. My guess is that other manufacturers are already looking at this, big-time, and will eagerly await the results for Frito-Lay. I expect it will succeed. I expect private label will follow quickly. Frito-Lay already sources some of its product from a top-notch private label vendor that puts the Frito-Lay name on the bag. Net-net, barring a significant change for the worse in taste, this should be a terrific win for everyone.

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