Equip more safety features. Your products are too fatty. Stop destroying the environment.

In this day and age, companies are often pressured by consumers and activist groups to change one thing or another. And whether it be a “health” trend or a “green” cause, companies often do. SunChips, owned by chip maker Frito-Lay, has always projected a good image to its consumers.

You want a healthy chip? Here you go. SunChips are made with all natural ingredients, no artificial flavors, no MSG, no preservatives, and they even contain 18 grams of whole grains per serving and zero grams of trans fat and cholesterol.

You want to help the environment? We equipped one of our eight manufacturing facilities with solar collector technology. Also, we now package our chips in biodegradable packaging.

You want us to remove the biodegradable packaging now? What?

That’s right. After receiving complaints from consumers, SunChips decided to remove their biodegradable bags. The reason: the bags were too noisy. SunChips released the “green” compostable bags in January 2010. They pulled the bag from five of the six flavors just 18 months later when customers were complaining that the bags were too noisy. There was even a 44,000 member Facebook group protesting the noisy bags.

Am I the only one that thinks this is ridiculous? Even if the SunChips bags are a little loud, deal with it and help the environment. From an utilitarian perspective, those people are just selfish to the planet and all because can’t deal with a little bit of noise. There would be less plastic bags floating around and killing whales. It could also lead to a trend in the United States(since other countries have already started) that could prevent the world from looking like the futuristic depiction in Wall-e.

But after further investigation, it seems like SunChips lovers acted on their complaints. Since the new bag has been out, SunChips have seen a decline in year-on-year sales. I guess Friedman was right, leave the “social responsibilities to the politicians.” After all, owners of Pepsi NYSE:PEP (Pepsi owns Fritoy-Lay) stock sure wouldn’t like it if the stock price fell.

…and maybe the bag is a little noisy…

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5 responses »

  1. scoutberger says:

    I absolutely agree with you Alex. In this day in age it seems that there are always more and more demands from the customers. “Make it healthier, make it taste better, make it more aesthetically pleasing, make it bigger, make it smaller…the list goes on and on.”

    With companies like Frito Lays there is a significant amount of pressure to try and be socially responsible. Often times this is to make the product healthier or make the company more environmentally friendly. I think it was very smart that SunChips made a bag that was biodegradable. To be honest I am extremely surprised that this move wasn’t more of a success. Nowadays I feel as if being “green” has become somewhat of a fad. Yes, the moral thing to do is be more environmentally friendly, but companies that are going “green” are receiving a large amount of appraisal and becoming more popular because of their actions. I am shocked that people were so against these new biodegradable bags with the current “green” trend.

    I am personally a SunChips lover. The blue bag, the green bag, the yellow bag, the red bag, the orange bag…you name it. I love all SunChips and for many years have been my favorite snack food. If push came to shove and I had to choose between a biodegradable bag that is slightly more noisy or the regular more harmful bags i would most certainly choose the biodegradable bags. The company is making the effort to be green; I think that it is the responsibility of the customers to follow in Frito Lays footsteps and try and be green too. If you are really a loyal customer, you would support the taste of the product and the choices of the company. I find it extremely hard to believe that the noise could play such a significant factor in customer’s chip preferences. I have seen and used both bags and there was never enough of a difference for me to notice.

    From a consequentialist standpoint, I believe that the new biodegradable bags are 100% beneficial…I really don’t see any harm with them. I think these customers are foolish and frankly…just plain old whining.

    However, I cannot point the finger solely at the customers. Shame on SunChips. I am disappointed that they took away the biodegradable bags so quickly.

  2. hannahglos says:

    I think that their decision to not use their biodegradable bags anymore shows that Sun Chips is a company that cares more about profits and its “popular” image than its responsible image. By all means contradict me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s stupid that because of some harsh criticism they removed something that was good for the environment. Especially given that so many companies are looking to go green, and to the best of my knowledge Sun Chips was one of the earlier companies to make their packaging more green, I am surprised that they abandoned the bags. I think it viewed them in a positive light when they used the old bags and it could have been a positive move for them in the long run, but all they cared about was their consumer’s preferences to a sound. I think that instead of taking away the bags, they should have marketed it more that the bags are in fact better for the environment, and somehow played the loudness of the bag to their advantage (make a funny commercial about it or anything else along those lines).

    • Alex Lin says:

      I like the idea of playing the “loudness of the bag to their advantage.” However, would sticking to the noisy bag really be a positive move in the long run? SunChips was saw a decline in sales ever since the bag came out. I personally agree that the biodegradable bag’s pros outweigh the cons and the people complaining about the bag are just selfish. I am actually surprised that “green” activist groups did not respond more loudly.

  3. Cherylngn says:

    It’s quite an interesting case, seeing that the noise could affect their sales that much since I always believe loyal customers buy SunChips for their quality and good taste. It is ridiculous seeing the public disregarding these environmental problems in the face of the most minor thing ever. It’s also disappointing to see that SunChips decided to remove the biodegradable bag so early. They were obviously having a hard time matching environmental efforts with its market strategyI guess in their motto, being environmental-conscious and helping garbage recycling is less important than the whiny chip consumers. I agree with Hannah that they seemed to mainly care about making profits, which is not something unusual in business nowadays. I’m also wondering if they could have somehow created a less noisy version of the bag, or maybe make some effort to change their marketing campaign of the new bag

  4. […] Overall Post goes to Alex (SunChips Responds to Consumers) for his short and fun writing […]

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