Frito-Lay is saying so long to monosodium glutamate, adios to artificial colors and sayonara to synthetic stabilizers—kind of. By the end of the year, the company says it plans to ditch the questionable ingredients in half of its products in favor of donning an all natural label.
What does natural mean to Frito-Lay? According to Tim Fink, director of Frito-Lay's seasonings team, "If the ingredient isn't in a consumer's cupboard, [we're going to try and] get it off the label."
The company says it tested more the 300 barbecue-flavored potato chips before discovering one close enough to the original that did not include MSG. The new chip makes up for the loss of the flavor enhancer by ramping up other seasonings such as molasses, malted barley flour and paprika.
Does this mean the yellow 6 used to color the finger-staining orange cheese on Doritos and Cheetos will soon be replaced with vegetable-derived dyes? Not so fast. The Frito-Lay folks are holding off reformulations on these popular brands that are marketed to teenagers since an all natural stamp may actually deter sales.
Still, I'm encouraged the company is doing anything at all. Frito-Lay is the biggest seller of salty snacks in the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal, so they're certainly not hurting for attention or sales. Also, natural substitutes can cost as much as 35 percent more than artificial colors and flavorings. So, why are they making the change? Perhaps because the company found during a nationwide advertising campaign in 2009 that most Americans didn't believe there were actual potatoes in their chips—there are. By going half natural perhaps the company hopes to change these perceptions and revamp their image?
I'm all for it if this revamping means using less of the ingredients that make consumers sick. Just as we can't expect everyone to put down the Dorito bag, big manufacturers may never have 100 percent clean labels (Frito-Lay's natural line is still full of saturated fats and sodium). But, if consumers and manufacturers can meet each other halfway, well, then we're getting somewhere.