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Frito-Lay Trashes SunChips Bag After Biodegradable Packaging Criticized For Being Too Noisy

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NEW YORK — Frito-Lay hopes to quiet complaints about its noisy SunChips bags by switching out the biodegradable bags for the old packaging on most flavors.

The company is switching back to original packaging, which is made of a type of plastic, for five of the six varieties of the chips. It will keep the biodegradable bags for its sixth variety, its original plain flavor. That's its second best-selling, after Harvest Cheddar.

The snack maker said the switch started in the middle of September and should be complete by middle to late October.

The bags were launched in April 2009 with a big marketing effort to play up their compostability because they're made from plants and not plastic.

But the technology Frito-Lay used to make the packaging results in a bag that's stiffer than the plastic packaging – and louder. Customers complained. Groups on Facebook abound with names such as "I wanted SunChips but my roommate was sleeping..." and "Nothing is louder than a SunChips bag."

Spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez said the company received complaints about the noise from the bags, although it also received thanks from customers who liked being able to recycle them.

So the decision was made to remove the bulk of the biodegradable line.

"We need to listen to our consumers," she said. "We clearly heard their feedback."

Frito-Lay, a unit of PepsiCo Inc., based in Purchase, N.Y., is developing its next generation of biodegradable bags and will use what it learned with the SunChips effort, she said.

More and more companies are trying to develop sustainable packaging, not just to save on costs but because it's what shoppers want, said Bob Stolmeier, business development manager for Zip-Pak, who works with companies to create packaging. But there's a limit to how much shoppers will sacrifice in the name of sustainability, and apparently noise is one of the sore spots.

"There's no reason to offer solutions that the market would not accept," he said.

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