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SunChips bag is 33% PLA

SunChips.gifFrito-Lay’s popular line of SunChips multigrain snack chips has been launched in a new bag with an outer layer made from Ingeo polylactic acid (PLA) resin from NatureWorks LLC (www.natureworksllc.com). The Purchase, NY-based company says the launch of the 10.5-oz multilayer bag is the first step toward transforming the brand’s packaging to a fully compostable bag. By Earth Day 2010, PepsiCo's Frito-Lay North America division plans to roll out a package for its SunChips snacks where all layers are made from PLA material, making the package 100% compostable.

“We know environmentally friendly packaging is a priority for our SunChips consumer,” says Gannon Jones, vice president of marketing for Frito-Lay North America. “Today’s launch of packaging made with one-third renewable materials is an important first step toward having a fully compostable chip bag in market by Earth Day 2010.”

Current snack food packaging has three layers: a printed outer layer with packaging visuals/graphics, an inner layer, which serves as a barrier to maintain the quality and integrity of the product, and a middle layer that joins the other two layers. When the packaging is 100% compostable, it will fully decompose in about 14 weeks when placed in a hot, active compost pile or bin, Frito-Lay says.

“Packaging is clearly the most visible interaction consumers have with Frito-Lay’s brands,” says Jay Gehring, vice president of packaging R&D, Frito-Lay North America. “To make packaging that would interact differently in the environment, we had to change the composition of packaging and invent key technologies. Using plant-based renewable materials, we have a promising solution that will transform packaging and significantly impact the billions of snack food bags produced annually.”

Once the 100% compostable bag is introduced, the company anticipates the switch will lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the production of the packaging and the elimination of petroleum-based packaging material.

To inform consumers about the new packaging initiatives, the brand will be communicating through traditional marketing efforts, including print, TV, and digital advertising. As part of the current packaging change, the front panel of the current 10.5-oz SunChips package features a callout, “Renewable materials make up 33% of this bag.” To communicate the next improvement, the digital strategy includes a video showing how the bag decomposes over 14 weeks.

Recent sustainability improvements

Over the past few years, Frito-Lay’s packaging initiatives have made some significant strides, the company notes. This includes reducing the amount of plastic in packaging by 10% over the last five years, resulting in the elimination of 12 million pounds of materials annually used to make the snack bags. In addition, Frito-Lay will be the first snack food company to fund the collection and upcycling of its used packaging through a program in conjunction with TerraCycle, Inc. (www.terracycle.net).

On Earth Day 2008, the SunChips brand celebrated a major milestone by inaugurating a solar concentrator field at Frito-Lay’s Modesto, CA, facility. There, the power of the sun is harnessed to help in the production of SunChips snacks. The Modesto plant is one of seven Frito-Lay plants across the country that makes SunChips snacks.

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