If you're wondering why everyone's talking about the crunchability of potato chips and feminism at the start of this week in 2018, here's what happened.
The CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi, was a guest on Freakonomics Radio last week. She speaks about the successes of her career — particularly about her role in creating new branding opportunities for Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Lays, and Cheetos products. The interviewer then asks her to explain the behavioral differences of how men and women consume chips.
According to the podcast, Nooyi had a big and direct impact in "diversifying" PepsiCo products. Namely, she helped create new categories, like “Fun for You,” “Better for You,” and “Good for You" (healthier-grade products).
The interviewer launches into a question worded, verbatim, like this: "I understand that men and women eat chips very differently. Can you tell us the differences?"
Nooyi responds to the question by suggesting that women "don't like to crunch too loudly" and that they "don't lick their fingers" the way that men supposedly do.
When you eat out of a flex bag — one of our single-serve bags — especially as you watch a lot of the young guys eat the chips, they love their Doritos, and they lick their fingers with great glee, and when they reach the bottom of the bag they pour the little broken pieces into their mouth, because they don’t want to lose that taste of the flavor, and the broken chips in the bottom. Women would love to do the same, but they don’t. They don’t like to crunch too loudly in public. And they don’t lick their fingers generously and they don’t like to pour the little broken pieces and the flavor into their mouth.
She then extrapolates on the idea and suggests a new packaging and chip experience for women...so that it's women-friendly. Like, the assumption that "women love to carry a snack in their purse."
It’s not a male and female as much as “are there snacks for women that can be designed and packaged differently?” And yes, we are looking at it, and we’re getting ready to launch a bunch of them soon. For women, low crunch, the full taste profile, not have so much of the flavor stick on the fingers, and how can you put it in a purse? Because women love to carry a snack in their purse. The whole design capability we built in PepsiCo was to allow design to work with innovation. Not just on packaging colors, but to go through the entire cycle, and say, “All the way to the product in the pantry, or how it’s being carried around, or how they eat it in the car, or drink it in the car, what should be the design of the product, the package, the experience, so that we can influence the entire chain?”
Over the next few days, and most explosively on Monday, these quotes have led many headlines about this new concept allegedly going to market.
However, in a statement to BuzzFeed News, a rep for PepsiCo said, "The reporting on a specific Doritos product for female consumers is inaccurate. We already have Doritos for women – they’re called Doritos."
The quotes, concepts, and headlines have of course caused a lot of concern and confusion online.
It's even inspired a Twitter thread from @MasalaBai about "sexism around food."
Mostly, people came strapped with jokes. PepsiCo doth deliver us from sexism.
Tanya Chen is a social news reporter for BuzzFeed and is based in Chicago.
Contact Tanya Chen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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