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Frito-Lay Pretends To Care About Health With Their 2011 ‘All-Natural’ Marketing Campaign

Posted Feb 22 2011 5:33pm

Today I’m gonna hit on one of my biggest pet peeves about the modern-day health culture we live in that absolutely drives me bonkers. Have you noticed just how brazen so many food companies have become in recent years in an attempt to improve their much-deserved “junk food” image by making blatant health claims about their products that are completely meaningless? It’s as if they are pulling out all the stops in their efforts to pull the wool over the eyes of common sense thinking so they can bamboozle the consumer into making a purchase under false pretenses. My wife Christine and I exposed this dastardly marketing agenda of the food manufacturers last summer with our 10-part “Health Claims Gone Wild” YouTube video series . And yet major food manufacturers like Frito-Lay have stepped up their efforts in 2011 to help boost the sales of their chips which have seen a decline in sales in recent years (ostensibly because people are being more mindful of their carbohydrate intake–thank you Dr. Atkins).

Frito-Lay pledged in 2010 to make over half of their product line “healthier” by removing the MSG, artificial colors and flavors, as well as most of the salt in their products which include Lay’s potato chips, Sun Chips, Tostido’s, and more. Additionally, they’re cutting the fat in these products by 40 percent with a goal of making the saturated fat content of all of their products less than 1 gram per serving. The president and CEO of Frito-Lay Al Carey made the following statement at this news conference that exemplifies why I’m so jaded about the future of health in the United States: “My objective is in three years that all of our products will be either ‘better for you’ or ‘good for you.’”

Now I’m sure Mr. Carey was well-meaning when he said this, but can anyone else see the irony of it all? We’re talking about potato chips here and the way they propose to make them “better for you” or “good for you” has everything to do with reducing the salt and fat in them. But does this make them healthier for the consumer? I think not. In fact, I remember back in the 1980s when Lay’s had a famous television commercial featuring NBA legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Larry Bird making a bet that “you can’t eat just one.”

The theme song of the marketing back then was, “No one can eat just one.” Man how times have changed! In 2011, the consumer is attempting to be more health-conscious and Frito-Lay is now transitioning their efforts in this regard to meet that growing demand with a brand new series of television commercials attempting to paint the picture that their chip products are somehow “better” by featuring the voiceover acting skills of Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights, Early Edition). If you’ve been watching television at all in the past couple of months, then surely you’ve seen these:

FRITO-LAY “CHEF” COMMERCIAL

FRITO-LAY “ANTHEM” COMMERCIAL

FRITO-LAY “QUALITY” COMMERCIAL

“We make them natural…you make them fun.” Cutesy tagline, right? But did anyone else catch the slick marketing slight-of-hand in these ads? I guess because my life is so dedicated to the subject of health and nutrition that this stuff is more obvious to me than most people. But the average Joe and Jane sitting at home watching the boob tube might watch any of those commercials and say, “Hey, they’re making those ‘all-natural’ chips healthier and by hand. I need to go get me some of them there chips the next time I go to the grocery store since I’m trying to lose weight and be healthy.” Sound preposterous? Maybe to you and me, but not to the people who still think salt and dietary fat are the problem with weight and health. And that’s why this new campaign from Frito-Lay is so insidious. Just because these chips are “all-natural,” that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily good or healthy for you. BAMBOOZLED!

Admittedly, back in my low-fat dieting days I happily went to my local Subway restaurant to get my low-fat turkey sub without mayonnaise and made it a combo meal with a bag of Sun Chips and a Diet Coke. The Sun Chips were and are still promoted as healthy because they have whole grains in them and are low in fat. And I even tried some of the now infamous Lay’s WOW potato chips with the fake fat olestra which resulted in some not-so-desirable gastrointestinal side effects. I fell for the low-fat marketing scheme that is now befalling a whole new wave of consumers with this effort by Frito-Lay to move towards the “natural” branding of their products. Here’s a CBS News story about the dramatic change in focus by Frito-Lay in 2011.

Did you catch that in the CBS story? They can’t make Cheetos or Doritos without artificial ingredients! Sheez, that’s quite telling…but they’re working on it. Oh joy! And I don’t mean to sound ugly or anything, but did you see what that Chief Marketing Officer for Frito-Lay Ann Mukherjee looked like?

I’m empathetic with anyone who struggles with their weight, but it does appear that the person directly responsible for marketing at Frito-Lay desperately needs to find better information about what is causing her own weight struggles. Unfortunately, if they think it’s the fat and salt causing the problems then they are sorely mistaken. But that’s EXACTLY what they’re doing as Frito-Lay Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Scientist Danielle Dalheim brags about in this promo video pushing “sensible snacking” with Frito-Lay chips:

Our chips are not cooked in saturated fats–”the bad fats”–and instead we use monounsaturated vegetable oil fats. Incredible! Again, the average consumer doesn’t know any better that these “choices” aren’t even close to being ideal for anyone attempting to eat a healthy diet. And yet that’s how they’re being marketed with this new “Naturally Delicious” advertising push. You’ll get a better feel for what Frito-Lay thinks “healthy” snacking is all about in this Q&A section on their web site dedicated to explaining it all in great detail. From demonizing saturated fats, promoting the “calories in, calories out” mantra, claiming their products are real food, worrying about salt as if it’s some health hazard , pushing MORE snacking as a means for losing weight, and finding a reason for virtually everyone to buy their chips. Well, after taking a look at the nutritional info on some of their new “All Natural” branded chips that are supposed to be the healthiest, I’ll never be buying this stuff again for the rest of my life:

TOSTIDOS ALL NATURAL SCOOPS

What’s bad about it: Made with starchy corn (maybe genetically modified, too!) and cooked in omega-6 loaded vegetable fats with a whopping 19g carbohydrate for the one-ounce serving size of chips. Who do you know that just eats ONE ounce of potato chips? Me neither! Betcha can’t eat just one serving!

LAY’S ALL NATURAL GARDEN TOMATO & BASIL

What’s bad about it: Besides being made with the very starchy potato and then cooked in omega-6-rich vegetable oils, the seasoning has sugar, brown sugar and dextrose in it and the ingredients show there’s also nonfat milk in this chip. Sugar, sugar and more sugar–OH MY! So is that supposed to be part of what makes it “all-natural?”

LAY’S ALL NATURAL BARBECUE

What’s bad about it: In addition to the potatoes and vegetable oils, did you catch what they put in the BBQ seasoning that’s anything but “all-natural?” It’s this innocent-sounding ingredient called “corn sugar” that you might know better as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) . They can change the name of the ingredient, but that doesn’t change what it is!

LAY’S ALL NATURAL CLASSIC

What’s bad about it: This one passes the Michael Pollan “5 ingredients or less” test since it only has three ingredients in it. But look at what those three ingredients are: potatoes (starchy carbs), vegetable oils (inflammatory omega-6 fats), and salt (probably man-made and not the more natural sea salt). This gives you a one-ounce snack that provides a total of 15g carbohydrate and not much nutritionally for you. How can they sucker people into thinking this is “healthy” with a straight face?

I could go on with Tostidos All Natural Multigrain , Rold Gold All Natural Everything Bagel Pretzels , Sun Chips All Natural Garden Salsa , Sun Chips All Natural Original , and Sun Chips All Natural Harvest Cheddar . No matter what Frito-Lay tries to say about their revamped potato chip line-up, I’ve gotta call a spade a spade–this stuff is pure unadulterated junk garbage that doesn’t even deserve to be called “food.” Anyone who buys into this ploy by them that they’re eating “better” or “healthier” with these new products is merely fooling themselves. There’s nothing redeeming about consuming this as sustenance for your body and the sooner you stop eating them the better. That’s the cold hard truth and something people need to hear. You cannot be healthy when you make Frito-Lay chips a regular part of your diet. Period.

I don’t expect food companies like Frito-Lay to stop attempting to fool the general public into thinking they actually care about the health of their consumers. That’s not their job. Their job is to sell more products and they’ll pretend to care about your health just to get into your pocketbook for your hard-earned cash. But people who genuinely care about health should vote with that same pocketbook by NOT buying this junk food and instead opting to funnel your food budget dollars towards more genuinely nutritious real foods such as grass-fed beef, pastured eggs, and organic, locally-grown non-starchy vegetables, for example. Think about all the money that’s been wasted on Frito-Lay chips over the years at $3 per bag. For the price of two bags, you could have gotten at least a pound of grass-fed beef or a couple dozen fresh local eggs from a farmer.

We make choices every single day about how we feed ourselves and our family. Isn’t it time we chose better rather than being fooled into thinking the big food companies care about your health? For more information on locating a local farmer near you, visit EatWild.com . Let’s send food companies like Frito-Lay a message that rings loud and clear: WE DON’T WANT WHAT YOU’RE SELLING IF IT’S GONNA KEEP UP FAT AND UNHEALTHY! Now let’s put words into action.

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