SunChips Rolling Out Compostable Package

Sun Chips Snack brand SunChips, a division of PepsiCo's Frito-Lay, likes its packaging to be ubiquitous on shelves -- but on sidewalks, bushes, in trees or the random gutter? Not so much. The company is rolling out compostable, organic-based packaging bit by bit this year, with a fully compostable bag due out on Earth Day in 2010.

The marketing effort includes a 45-second ad showing a time lapse of the 100% biodegradable bag decomposing over 14 weeks. It will run once on "American Idol" on Tuesday -- the day before Earth Day -- followed by a home-page takeover on various social/video Web sites, primarily YouTube the day after.

"We actually have video out on a few different blog sites today, but the big marketing push will be next Tuesday," Thomas Oh, director of the SunChips brand, tells Marketing Daily. He says the company is the first in the convenience-food industry to introduce such packaging.



Print ads running in People will include samples of the new biodegradable material. Oh says SunChips has also begun a national point-of-purchase effort in grocery stores this week with pamphlets containing swatches of the material -- made of polylactic acid (trade name Ingeo) with instructions on how to compost it.

The campaign will be extended after Earth Day through a participation initiative via a partnership with National Geographic. A digital campaign -- centering on the video -- will direct people to, where they can submit an account of steps they or their community groups are taking toward a sustainable lifestyle.

"In partnership with National Geographic, we will select the top five ideas and fund each $20,000 to implement," says Oh. The submission period opens on Earth Day and runs through June 8. In July, people can vote online among applicants. They will choose one winner, and a judging panel will choose the other four. All will be featured in National Geographic later in the year and invited to the publication's Washington, D.C. headquarters.

The print, TV and digital advertising includes a callout on the front panel of the current 10½ -ounce size SunChips package: "Renewable materials make up 33% of this bag."

Meanwhile, Frito-Lay recently launched a separate print campaign for SunChips and -- also timed with Earth Day -- a new TV spot that launched on cable and prime time this week about the company's solar-energy initiatives at the Modesto, Calif. SunChips plant.

Oh says the choice of making SunChips the first brand to get the new packaging was easy. "Our consumers very much want a healthier snack, and we realized a couple of years ago that those same consumers have an interest in what's healthy for the planet," he says. "From an organizational standpoint, SunChips is the lead brand for communications around sustainability initiatives."

The company plans to make packaging for all of its chips out of the new material. "Right now, we are literally inventing the technology, and there is just not enough material in existence for the entire portfolio. As we continue to develop and invest behind technology, the economies of scale will enable this to be spread across the rest [of Frito Lay's product line]," says Oh.

Several agencies are involved with the program. For advertising and media, Juniper Park and OMD, respectively; The Marketing Arm developed in-store; Hornall Anderson created packaging art. Ketchum is handling PR for the program and Zocalo Group is doing a word-of-mouth program.

2 comments about "SunChips Rolling Out Compostable Package ".
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  1. Koann Skrzyniarz from Sustainable Life Media, April 17, 2009 at 12:19 a.m.

    So exciting! Come hear Thomas Oh talk about the SunChips/Frito Lay Sustainable brand journey at, May 31-June 4, in Monterey, CA along with Adidas, Kaiser, Clorox, Coca-cola, Dell, BASF, HP, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, Kendall Jackson, Sun Products, SC Johnson, Starbucks, and 550 others!

  2. Tom Mescall from The Mescall Group, April 17, 2009 at 6:43 p.m.

    Glad to see this! Hope it motivates others to do the same. The only thing that could muck it up would be for a grocer to put this degradable packaging in a wasteful, non-degrading plastic bag.

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