MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
(SOUNDBITE OF SUNCHIPS COMMERCIAL)
LOUISE KELLY: A chip bag that's made from plants, so it's compostable. If SunChips changed for a brighter tomorrow...
Unidentified Man: (Singing) ...I see.
LOUISE KELLY: But, now, Frito-Lay, the company behind SunChips and that ad, is pulling most of its 100 percent compostable bags from grocery shelves. And here's why.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHIP BAG NOISE)
LOUISE KELLY: It's gotten a lot of complaints that it's too loud. We've reached out to Brad Rogers. He is Frito-Lays North America research and development manager for sustainable packaging.
Brad Rogers, I have heard people liken the noise of this bag to breaking glass. There was the blogger who described it as not just loud but a quality of loud that was impossible to ignore like a hundred little old ladies in the theater all uncrinkling their hard candies at once. Fair description?
BRAD ROGERS: Well, I don't know about that, but it definitely is a different sound than the conventional packaging that we would typically utilize, kind of a louder, higher pitched noise that it does give off.
LOUISE KELLY: Why? Why are these bags so loud?
ROGERS: Well, trying to make that package so it would be compostable, the materials that we had to choose from today are such that that this is the property that you get from it.
LOUISE KELLY: Well, let me bring in Chris Kuechenmeister, as well. He's a spokesman for Frito-Lay, and he's also on the line with us. Let me ask you. Once this bag was introduced, did SunChips sales actually suffer?
CHRIS KUECHENMEISTER: Well, what we've seen with the SunChips brand and its sales, it's hard to pinpoint to just about anything. I'd say the brand is in a solid position. We're seeing some positive momentum right now but, obviously, there are a lot of factors that play a role in how sales perform.
The noise of the bag, yeah, it's absolutely could have played a role in any sort of effect on the sales. And quite frankly, we're very interested in hearing what consumers are saying about the bag. What we're trying to do is use that feedback as we develop the next generation bag.
LOUISE KELLY: Brad Rogers, is it back to the drawing board now trying to come up with another compostable bag that doesn't sound quite so loud?
ROGERS: Not so much back to the drawing board but, as Chris mentioned, there's always room for improvement in the packaging. We're constantly doing that, even with our existing packages today.
LOUISE KELLY: And I should mention SunChips is now available in six flavors. You all are keeping the original flavor in this compostable bag. So if people want to go buy it, it's out there.
ROGERS: Yes. Keeping it in that one flavor, too, also gives us the opportunity to introduce next generation packages as they become available. We'll have a place for it to automatically go and be able to measure that consumer response very quickly.
LOUISE KELLY: Okay. We've been talking to Chris Kuechenmeister, spokesman for Frito- Lay, and also to Brad Rogers, the company's North America research and development manager for sustainable packaging.