NEWS > BUSINESS > FRITO-LAY SUED OVER IRREGULARLY SHAPED POTATO CHIPS
FRITO-LAY SUED OVER IRREGULARLY SHAPED POTATO CHIPS
July 25 2009
Plano, TX – Like many inventions throughout the history of humanity, the potato chip began as an accident. A product of revenge by an angry chef towards a fussy customer, the potato chip has become a multi-billion industry and a source of guilty pleasure for millions of people around the world. From those early days of simple fried potatoes to the modern day variety that presents people with a nearly endless selection of mostly unhealthy choices, the potato chip has become an almost essential part of the diet in the western world.
Despite that global appetite for chips, the snack has often been at the centre of the obesity debate alongside soft drinks, its snack-food sibling. Now a lawsuit has highlighted another debate, one that has often vexed those with an appetite for the salty treats that may forever change the industry. At the heart of the lawsuit is the process that goes into manufacturing and packaging the chips, a process companies across the world have perfected over decades of trial and error and which may now be threatened with extinction.
“We firmly believe that the potato chip industry has colluded to create an environment of profit over quality. That collusion has, through repeated acts of bad faith, deliberately bilked the populace out of millions dollars through deliberately false advertising created in part by manipulated production process that benefits their objectives,” said Gilbert Hauser, lawyer for the plaintiffs. “We are calling on the industry to alter their manufacturing processes which has for so long allowed them to deceive the chip eating public and sap precious dollars from their pockets.”
At issue is the irregular shape of most chips which can inflate the size of the packaging and make certain selections more difficult to eat, an issue that has been a part of the chip industry since its inception and as yet has only been conquered by one brand, Pringles.
“I doubt there is a person in the world who has opened a bag of chips and not been met with at least a little bit of disappointment. This huge bag that ends up being on half full, all the big chips at the top with the rejects left at the bottom with all the broken bits. True, chips can be quite delicious but that taste has always been a little let down by the degradation of the promise that the package makes,” said Scrape TV Legal analyst Gabe Hawthorne. “Whether or not that disappointment paves the ground for legal action is a different issue entirely. There are certain laws that apply to things like
marketing and packaging but there comes a point when the contract between the purchaser and the seller takes effect, a place where the law has no place or precedent. The option for the consumer is no longer purchasing the product, though if they are able to convince a jury that the various companies have conspired to make chips an irregular size, they may have something.”
Other issues in the lawsuit are curled chips versus oversized chips which respectively cause more density in handfuls which leads to overeating and breakage when trying to insert into an eater’s mouth.
“The truth is there are very few options on the market for someone to turn to if they want a full package and more or less equal sized chips. Sure they have
Pringles but the expense, the variety of flavours, and the awkward packaging makes that a poor choice for the majority of chip eaters, especially to the more dedicated who generally have larger hands than the average person. The existence of Pringles itself could play a role in the suit if they can portray them as deliberately poor choice pushing people to other brands,” continued Hawthorne. “The truth is there are very few high level potato chip manufacturers in the world and they all have more or less the same production process which at best seems suspicious and at worst conspiratorial.”
Officially Frito-Lay and their parent company PepsiCo, Inc. had no comment on the suit but industry insiders have indicated that part of the reason for the irregular size of chips is due to potatoes being irregularly shaped.