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SunChips' Green Packaging Comes Under Fire for Creating a Racket

Laura Scudders, a brand born during the Depression Era, used to claim its potato chips were the "noisiest chips in the world." These days, to hear some consumers tell it, SunChips are breaking the sound barrier with new packaging that is eco-friendly but creates a din when handled.

The 100 percent compostable bags made from plant-based material that Frito-Lay uses for SunChips crackles so loudly that some chip eaters have compared it to "a "revving motorcycle" and "glass breaking," the Wall Street Journal reported today.

The buzz about the chip bags is working its way through the blogosphere and is drawing traffic with the social media. The WSJ said:

It is louder than "the cockpit of my jet," said J. Scot Heathman, an Air Force pilot, in a video probing the issue that he posted on his blog under the headline "Potato Chip Technology That Destroys Your Hearing" [see below]. Heathman tested the loudness using a RadioShack sound meter. He squeezed the bag and recorded a 95 decibel level. A bag of Tostitos Scoops chips (another Frito-Lay brand, in bags made from plastic) measured 77.

Clifford A. Wood, a 69-year-old in Tempe, Ariz., posted a warning on a Google chat page for people who work in theaters, cautioning: "Please NEVER sell Sun Chips in these bags at your venue."



Potato Chip Technology That Destroys Your Hearing from heathaplexVISION on YouTube.

A litany of complaints, most of them good-humored, as well as some praise for Frito-Lay's environmental efforts can also be found on the new Facebook group, "SORRY BUT I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THIS SUN CHIPS BAG," which had more than 30,000 fans this morning.

In an industry first, Frito-Lay rolled out chip bags for 10.5-ounce packages made from 100 percent polylactic acid (PLA), a corn-based biopolymer, this year and had launched a 33 percent PLA bag for Earth Day in 2009. The 100 percent PLA bag fully decomposes in about 14 weeks when placed in a hot, active compost pile or bin, according to the company. The material, though effective, makes a distinct crackling sound when the bag is opened.

The brouhaha over bags prompted Boulder Canyon Foods to pipe up that its compostable packaging made from wood pulp gets the job done more quietly.

"The truth is, 'green' snacking doesn’t have to wake the neighbors to be effective," a PR rep for Boulder Canyon emailed just before 9 this morning. "Unlike the famously loud corn starch-based compostable bag introduced by Frito Lay earlier this year, Boulder Canyon Natural Foods has introduced a fully compostable bag to its kettle-cooked potato chip line that feels and sounds like a traditional bag of chips should." 

The Frito-Lay people, also no slouches when it comes to marketing, have provided a sign for stores to use. It reads:  "Yes, the bag is loud, that's what change sounds like."

The company's R&D people are exploring ways to make the packaging quieter, said the WSJ.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user j_lai

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