The snack food giant is not just looking to cut salt, but also try new ingredients like legumes and cassava.
Frito-Lay will never be synonymous with health food. The company’s hyphenated name is literally composed of a corn chip brand and a potato chip brand – and the whole thing is owned by PepsiCo, a soda brand. But that doesn’t mean that Frito-Lay can’t try to make its snack foods healthier… with an emphasis on the “er.” And that’s exactly what Frito-Lay has been working on: cutting things like sodium across the board while attempting to boost other ingredients like whole grains and vegetables.
“We’re really looking to not only decrease the negatives but also increase the positives and transform our portfolio in a positive direction,” Elizabeth Roark, registered dietitian and principal scientist for PepsiCo Nutrition Services, during a recent discussion on ways the snack giant was looking to make its foods more nutritious.
One of Frito-Lays biggest goals is to cut the sodium content in at least three-quarters of the company’s global portfolio by 2025. Of course, salt is a big component to something like potato chips, but Christine Cioffe, Ph.D., senior vice-president, Sustainability and Global Snacks R&D at PepsiCo, explained that some of the battle is simply how changes are presented to consumers. “I think we’re getting to that sweet of a great experience with a lower sodium intake,” she said, going on to cite Lay’s Lightly Salted as an example. “We do know through previous experience as well as consumer insights that when you signal to a consumer ‘now reduced’ or ‘now lower’ there’s a feeling you have either changed the product proposition or in a sense you’re depriving the consumer of the best experience possible. I think the positioning you see with Lay’s Lightly Salted is there’s not a deprivation.”
As far increasing the good stuff in its food instead of just cutting the bad stuffs, Cioffe said that Frito-Lay is experimenting with lots of more atypical ingredients. “Think about all of the innovation within plant-based ingredients,” she said. “In our Off the Eaten Path portfolio … the first ingredient is a legume.” She later continued, “Conversely there’s a lot going on in an agricultural commodity called roots or tubers. This would play off of our potato knowledge. It allows us to get into sweet potatoes, cassava, which is very prevalent down in Brazil. We’re looking at things like yucca, carrots, turnips.” Yes, if you’ve been looking for the perfect lightly salted turnip chip, Frito-Lay might soon be ready to answer the call!