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Snap! Crackle! Crunch! Frito-Lay keeps noisy 'green' SunChips bag in Canada, pulls solar ads

November 11, 2010 | 10:32 am

When Frito-Lay tried earlier this year to swap the bag conventionally used for its SunChips with a "green" compostable package, consumers in the U.S. howled.

They griped that the bags, made out of biodegradable plant material, were too noisy. The company got so many complaints that last month it decided to yank most of the noisiest bags off the market.

The newest issue of Consumer Reports also raises questions about just how well the bag actually degrades after testing it for 13 weeks in a compost pile.

But in Canada, the bags are staying and the company said it's found a solution: Give snackers a free pair of earplugs. (The instructions for the earplugs can be found here.)

If you don't like it? Too bad.

"SunChips is and always has been planning on keeping the compostable bag in Canada," Helmi Ansari, sustainability leader for Frito-Lay Canada, said in a video posted on a company Facebook page that explained the decision.

"So the trade-off is pretty clear," Ansari added. "A little more noise, for a little less waste, and a little more green."

A page administrator explained that while Canadian consumers had complained about the bag noise, the number of complaints was fewer than the outraged onslaught seen among Americans.

The reaction, at least from reading posts on the Facebook page, seemed relatively understanding.

"I sooo want the ear plugs! Where's the signup sheet???" wrote one person. "They are not that loud," wrote another, who pointed out that she now knows "when my husband is trying to steal my chips."

But in the U.S., the saga of the eco-friendly SunChip continues. Frito-Lay North America Inc. recently pulled a print advertising campaign boasting that the chips were made with solar power.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus’ national advertising division had opened an inquiry into the ads, some of which featured a disclaimer that one of the company’s chip-making plants in Modesto used solar power.

“A consumer could reasonably take away the message that all SunChips were made in factories that were 100 percent solar-powered, a claim that is not accurate,” the advertising division said in a statement.

Before the inquiry concluded, Frito-Lay had already voluntarily discontinued the ads.

-- P.J. Huffstutter