What Ever Happened to the Sun Chips® Compostable Bag?

File Under: Product Design Flaws

Sun Chips Compostable Bag
“2010/365/117 Wither the Chip Bag” by Alan Levine, Flickr

In 2008, in a nod to the environment, Sun Chips® maker Frito-Lay® made their bags compostable. However, there was a fundamental design flaw. Once consumers started digging in for those delicious whole grain snacks, it got chaotic.

The Sun Chips® compostable bag was simply too noisy.

The company claims they knew of the issue, but thought customers would find the tradeoff worth it for the environment.

Wrong. During this time, the product line realized an 11% dip in revenue.

Did SunChips® React Quickly Enough?

This is where a quick but thorough measurement of their product reviews could have gone a long way. There is no doubt that this issue would have come to light, at least to some degree, during pre-launch surveys. But surveys are fraught with problems such as survey fatigue, and supplemental methods should have been incorporated.

Reviewers are not shy about their feelings. If the brand had a review monitoring program in place, they would have picked up on this sentiment quickly. This 12 second video has no words and illustrates consumer frustration with the Sun Chips® compostable bag perfectly.

Yet it took 18 months to get the original Sun Chips® compostable bags off the shelves.

Incorporating Product Reviews in Product Launches

If SunChips® would have used Channel Signal to measure its product reviews upon launch of the original compostable bag, what trigger words would they have seen? Words like “noise”, “loud”, “crinkly” and even “decibels” would have immediately began trending as negative trigger words.

With reviews being so influential over sales decisions (90% of shoppers they trust them), analyzing product reviews would have revealed sooner that customers were not willing to take this ear piercing noise despite the positive environmental impact. The company could have made a swifter decision to redesign the packaging and thus save a lot of bad press and lost revenue.

Incidentally, Sun Chips® did design a quieter compostable bag in 2011 with far better response.

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