Snack Food Giant Frito-Lay Gets Serious For A Change

Frito-Lay brands have a history of funny, silly commercials that befit a maker of such snack foods as potato chips, Doritos and Tostitos.  In the COVID-19 environment, those ads are worse than out of place.

With a message featuring a totally different tone, Frito-Lay late last week debuted its new spot, “It’s About People,” which details how it’s trying to help.

With a simple piano riff accompanying matter-of-fact words and pictures, the 60-second spot, produced in-house, debuted on “Good Morning America’ on April 10.

A script overlay reads, “Things are hard right now. The world doesn’t need brands to tell us how to think or feel.The world needs brands to take action.That’s what we’ve been focused on at Frito-Lay.”



More onscreen text mention the brand's new job opportunities (3,000 new jobs are being created), its  20-million-meal donation of healthy meals, a $15 million in relief effort and funding for health clinics to provide COVID-19 testing at health clinics. 

A unit of Pepsico, Frito-Lay brands are staples at parties and big-game events, when large groups of people get together. Pepsico and Frito-Lay a year ago said 90% of the people watching the Super Bowl would consume their products, and its commercials are usually light-hearted.

The pandemic is about as far away from that scene as could be imagined, except that in both scenarios, the place--inside consumers’ homes--is still the same. 

“Frito-Lay is proud to serve the communities where we live and work during this unprecedented global pandemic. Despite social distance, our hope is that we’ll emerge more connected than ever before, which is the message behind ‘It’s About People,’ says Rachel Ferdinando, Frito-Lay North America chief marketing officer, in a prepared statement.

The company chose not to make her available for an interview, citing the quiet period before its parent firm, Pepsico reports first quarter earnings on April 28. 

Not only for Frito-Lay but other snack food companies, those results will certainly be different than expected because of the pandemic -- probably higher. Supermarket News reports vegetables, salty snacks  and cheese were the top grocery store purchases for the week of March 28, with similar numbers during the rest of March and continuing into April. 

There’s evidence people are buying different snacks now, possibly because their choices are limited. Popcorn sales were up 81.3% over a year ago, and pretzel sales were up 70.8%, Nielsen reported, among the big salty snack gainers last month when shopping and eating habits changed dramatically.

Frito-Lay wants to keep those shelves stocked.  In the portion of the new commercial mentioning new jobs, the visual is of a Frito-Lay deliveryman. 

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