Frito Lay Announces “All Natural” Junk Food

As the new year approaches, and with it a multitude of resolutions for a healthier behavior, we will be seeing many new announcements about nutrition, foods and exercise contraptions.

Getting a head start is Frito-Lay, the savory snack stalwart owned by PepsiCo. Yesterday the company announced major changes in its lineup. In fact,

“This is the largest evolution we’ve ever had in our product line,” says Ann Mukherjee, chief marketing officer at Frito-Lay. Until now, she says, 30% of its line was “all natural.” For example:

• A bag of Tostitos Hint of Lime Tortilla Chips will lose all of these additives: monosodium glutamate, sodium diacetate and artificial colors.

• Lay’s Barbeque chips will drop the monosodium glutamate and some other additives.

read more from USA Today…

Unfortunately, Doritos and Cheetos are not included in the changes.

What you need to know:

Let us be perfectly clear. Fooducate applauds the removal of unhealthy additives from food products.

But as we wrote just last week, “Natural” is an unregulated term. It is misleading because it adds a health halo to products that do not deserve one. Potato chips are not healthy. Tostitos are not healthy. They are salty, fatty snacks that should be consumed occasionally at best.

Frito-Lay’s motivation is to increase sales of its products and to take back market share from smaller rivals who have been playing the “natural” ticket for several years. If Frito-Lay can additionally spin a PR story to appear interested in our health, even better.

If junk food companies would really care about our health, they wouldn’t peddle soft drinks and empty calorie snacks to our children. They wouldn’t spend billions in advertising and product placement to get us to eat MORE MORE MORE snacks. They would re-invent themselves to create totally new brands, back to basics foods.

Bottom line: “All Natural” junk food is still junk food. You should not be tempted to consume more just because some ingredients have been removed.

What to do at the supermarket:

It’s good to know that if and when you purchase an occasional snack, it’s made with ingredients you would most likely find in your pantry. Always check the ingredient list to see you are not buying snacks with partially hydrogenated oils (a.k.a. trans-fat), excessive salt (over 200mg per serving), or additives of dubious nutritional value.

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  • Dr. Susan Rubin

    Natural is one of those words that means nothing. Actually it means worse than nothing! I tell my clients that if a product says natural, its probably got something that you don’t want to be ingesting. MSG is a great example.
    MSG comes in a number of disguises.Smart consumers should make a copy of this list so they know.

  • (Mostly) Healthy Mom

    It really is insane that we’ve created a culture of “healthy” buzzwords. Once “all natural”, “organic”, “made with whole grains”, or “0 grams trans-fats” is on the bag, people seem to think it’s a healthy food that they can eat in excess. It’s so important to read the food labels to see what you’re really consuming!

  • nutritioulicious

    While I agree that “natural” has become overused and has a health halo around it, I think it’s important to recognize the improvements food companies are making. Over the years Frito Lay has done a lot more than many chip companies have to improve their products. Chips may still be considered “junk” food, but a)there is a place for all foods in moderation and b)there are nutritional benefits to chips that shouldn’t be forgotten. Frito’s chips are made with whole potatoes or corn, healthier oils, and they have less sodium per serving than a slice of bread. As a registered dietitian, I am happy to know that I can recommend a product that has ingredients consumers can pronounce and understand. Like it or not, people are going to eat chips, so why not have healthier options for them?!

  • elisabeth

    I want to second “nutritioulicious” comments. My dear husband is fond of quoting his childhood family doctor who told the family “everything in moderation.” Life should include pleasure, and the truth is that fat and salt and sugar provide a lot of taste pleasure. We should indulge in moderation and really savor our treats, but I don’t think we need to give them up completely in order to be healthy.

  • Editorial Staff

    @Jessica, @elisabeth – agreed, there is room for snacks in our lives. “Moderation” is a troubling word because it lacks specificity. Is a bag of chips every day with lunch considered moderate? One 20 fl oz bottle of soft drink per day?
    We think not. “In moderation” should change to “occasionally.”
    Promoting the corn / potatoes and healthy oils in Frito-Lay’s chips as a health benefits? That kind of thinking leads to more snacking, not less.

  • roger

    The oil is technically not healthier.. its still fried

  • Lauren Slayton

    I love the passion in this post. I have to disagree with my fellow RD’s comments above. First, I think “everything in moderation” is one of the most misleading comments around. Food with junky ingredients, artificial sweeteners and colors don’t have to be in our diets. I love a “salty” snack as much as the next person (maybe more) but I would never suggest a Frito to my clients or family members. There are fantastic alternatives. We don’t have to settle for junk food with a couple minor improvements, we can eat better food. We are so lucky to have choices and I chose no moderation when it comes to these foods.

  • sandy

    @nutritioulicious “Everything in moderation” would include an awful lot of absolute crap. I don’t subscribe to that rationale. There are things masquerading as food that are primarily vehicles to harvest ag subsidies and consumer dollars. That is nothing to rationalize about. An RD like Nutrilicious who waffles on this is not worth listening to. My bad pun has more nutritional value than her industry butt-kissing platitude.

  • Nancy-The Frugal Dietitian

    Removing MSG, artificial colors etc. for the most part is just another marketing ploy. Since when have they been a big contributor to heart disease, cancer and other major mortality causing diseases? I would rather see them kept in and instead concentrate on using more whole grains, olive or canola oil, etc. and using less of the refined ingredients and saturated and trans fats.

    • Syl

      canola oil is controversial. Bad for hypothyroidism. Olive oil good.

  • Wayne

    Unless the “natural junk food” is a piece of fruit or vegetable is it really natural?

  • Jason

    It’s definitely all about marketing. I’m sure they couldn’t care less about the healthfulness of their product. Better without the additives than with them, but it still won’t make me buy them or eat them.

  • Betablaster

    please keep in mind that genetically modified food is NOT “natural” eventhough Frito Lay and the USDA want us to think it is

  • Btc

    say, tried the new version of the Hint Of Lime Tostitos last night. I’d
    rather they just left it all in and put a warning on the bag. Another
    great food goes down.