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Sun sets, for now, on green chip bag

Biodegradable bags weren’t a universal hit with customers. Biodegradable bags weren’t a universal hit with customers. (Frito-Lay via Associated Press)
Associated Press / October 6, 2010

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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 and recyclable bags for its sixth variety, its original plain flavor. That is its second best-selling, after Harvest Cheddar.

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 that which makes them compostable also makes them loud. The bags have a different molecular structure from the original packaging, and they’re stiffer. So people complained about the noise.

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 bags’ noise, although it also received thanks from customers who liked being able to recycle them.

Frito-Lay, a unit of PepsiCo Inc., 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.