Two Chips, Two Stories

December 20, 2010
3 min read

Source: Mintel GNPD

Part of the value that Mintel provides is that our global coverage and insight can help you tie together events and provide meaningful perspective on what is happening in one area so you’ll have a better understanding of what it means in another. This type of global context is invaluable to people trying to cope with the pace of change and the actions of their competitors who are also operating on a global level.

A prime example of how this insight can come into play arose from two very different reactions to a sustainability initiative by PepsiCo. What we learned was that sustainability is not something that’s consistent in all nations, and our actions in one area should be connected to these local particulars. Additionally, brands operating in these different regions can tailor the tone and message to cope with the different personalities in question.

As reported by Global Food Analyst, Marcia Mogelonsky, when PepsiCo launched its 100% compostable bags for its “better for you” (BFY) line of Sun Chips snacks in the US, the consumer reaction was quick. An effort led by a group of purchasers irked about the noise generated by the packaging forced the company to pull the compostable bags less than 18 months after they were first launched with considerable fanfare. The bags were simply too loud, they claimed.

Sun Chips’ compostable packaging appeared on the Canadian market in February 2010; as in the US, complaints about the noisy bags began to come into the company almost at once.

But, unlike the US, PepsiCo did not respond by pulling the plug on the innovative package. Rather, the company mounted a concerted effort to explain the positive attributes of the packaging, with full-page ads in major newspapers and an enthusiastically positive Facebook site (

In order to placate consumers bothered by the noise, Sun Chips Canada’s Facebook page offered ear plugs to anyone who wrote in and requested them, a clever riposte that somehow eluded the American arm of the company. This initiative, in part, helped make the bag a success in one region where it was recalled in another. This, too, became something of a point of pride, helping the Sun Chips website become a symbol of how Canadians stand out.

The innovative compostable bag has also helped PepsiCo stand out, but (of course) differently depending upon the region in question. In the US, there are questions about how far the company is willing to go to stand by their sustainability efforts. In Canada, the bag and the humor demonstrated by the company have helped PepsiCo get a leg up.

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