Fooducate is participating in the annual Food & Nutriton Conference and Expo (FNCE) in Denver this year. We’ll be covering the show on the blog and on twitter, trying to bring interesting stories and attractions, along with a dash of opinion.
Today, as a pre-conference activity a group of dietitians and food professionals visited a local Frito-Lay manufacturing plant where we were given a tour and presentations about the company’s commitment to health and sustainability. We have to admit that healthy and ecology are not the first 2 things that come to mind when thinking about potato chips. That said, the PR team and plant staff did provide interesting information.
Here then, are a few observations:
1. A Dorito or Frito right hot off the machine is definitely tastier than what you get out of the bag a week or month later.
2. Seeing how a truckload of corn or potato is transformed in a matter of minutes to a bagged savory snack is quite remarkable. There’s a lot of engineering and quality control that goes into this process, regardless of the fact that the end product is not a picture of perfect nutrition.
3. Frito-Lay, owned by PepsiCo, has been and is continuing to lead in nutrition and sustainability, according to its press materials. Some examples include becoming a “net zero plant” by 2011. This means energy in equals energy out. This is achieved by reusing water, generating electricity through solar and other renewable means.
4. The nutrition improvements include – removal of bad fats in the 1980′s , then the removal of trans fats in the early 2000′s. Only 3 ingredients – potatoes, oil, salt. Relatively low amount of sodium – same as in a slice of bread.
5. When asked how much potato chips America consumed, the answer was 2-3 servings a week per person!
6. If that’s not enough, the dietitians working at Frito Lay said that as part of a balanced diet, there’s no problem in your children consuming a serving of potato chips every single day.
7. Baked chips, which have only 20% of the fat in the regualr chips account for only 7% of chip sales for Frito-Lay.
8. Potatoes sourced by Frito-Lay are of a specific variety with exactly the right shape, size, extra thin peel, and starchiness.
9. From truck to bag, it takes a potato just 12 minutes to go the route.
10. Damaged chips and corn products are not wasted, they get sold to local pig farmers. Wonder if all that Nacho seasoning does anything to the hogs…
11. The average potato chip serving is 1 oz. or 16 chips, according to the product label. When asked if this is in line with what people actually consume (we think people eat much more), the answer was that studies on this have not been carried out. The team was quick to point out the single serve bags, the portion control bags, and that for bags under 3 oz that may be consumed in a single sitting nutrition information is presented both per 1 oz serving and for the entire bag.
Summary – all in all, the visit opened our eyes to the ingenuity both in manufacturing and product formulation. We are happy that there are registered dietitians working at Frito-Lay helping to make the products less bad for us.
But at the end of the day we must still remember, these are just snacks. They are not meant to replace real food, nor should you look at them as a source of any substantial nutrients. And we definitely don’t think it’s fine to serve our kids potato chips 7 days a week. But then again, we don’t get our paycheck from Frito-Lay.
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