Photo: anotherkindofdrew (flickr)
The Sound Of Eating
Don’t like the noise in SunChip’s new compostable bag? You can join the 49,251 others in the “SORRY BUT I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER THIS SUN CHIPS BAG” group of Facebook. Followers have posted: “I’d rather hear screeching nails on a chalkboard!!!” and “Have you ever touched one of those bags!… Its like a speaker on BLAST.”
This group seems relatively harmless compared to other Facebook groups that rally around shared mundane experiences, but SunChips listened. As of Tuesday SunChips has immediately discontinued making its biodegradable product for all but the “Original” flavor.
The loud noise of the bags is attributed to its unusual molecular structure that enables it to be rigid and still compost in gardens and landfills. This move to environmentally friendly packaging has been praised by environmentalists, but apparently not everyone was convinced.
“The bag illustrates the sometimes unexpected bumps that can trip up companies trying to do the right thing environmentally. SunChips sales have declined more than 11% over the past 52 weeks.” Bruce Horovitz from USA Today reports.
Plant-Based Vs. Petroleum-Based
Although the “Original” SunChips flavor is still wrapped in the noisy, compostable bag, SunChips hasn’t indicated whether or not they’ll resume the eco-packaging on their other flavors. They state on their website:
Truth be told, our compostable bag sounds a bit different than our other bags. That’s because the plant-based materials used to make our compostable bag have different sound qualities than the materials used to make our other bags. Although our compostable bag is a bit louder, we hope you’ll appreciate its environmental benefits.
And, if Facebook groups are a good barometer for the company’s popularity, many do value SunChips’ noisy, biodegradeable bags. Comments posted by the 387,797 Facebook members who “like” SunChips, demonstrate the continued support for SunChips’ initiative: “We love the compostable bag! What a great idea! The noise isn’t a factor for us” and “I’m completely disgusted to have heard that you are bringing the petroleum-based bags back.”
Bowing To Noisy Consumers?
Now SunChips needs to make a decision. It can court consumers who are willing to pay (and tolerate noise) for environmental initiatives, or it can resume its place in the market of cheap, salty snacks.
Even as it says it is continuing research on new biodegradable bags, it is losing ground with both markets. With calls for bans on SunChips until they resume their eco-packaging conflicting with other Facebook groups like “the 100% compostable sun chips bag is 110% annoying” (541 people like this), SunChips will have to stay strong to its environmental principles if it’s truly going to usher in a more environmentally friendly packaging future.
- SunChips not-so-quietly buries its noisy compostable bags (Grist)
- Frito-Lay sends noisy, ‘green’ SunChips bag to the dump (USA Today)
- SORRY BUT I CANT HEAR YOU OVER THIS SUN CHIPS BAG (Facebook)
- NYC Moves to Take Soda Off the Food-stamp Shopping List (SunChips)