PepsiCo Misses the Mark on ‘Snacks for Women’

PepsiCo Misses the Mark on 'Snacks for Women'

PepsiCo’s latest product effort isn’t what you’d expect from the soda and snack giant. According to a recent interview with CEO Indra Nooyi, the company is developing a line of snacks for women.

Sounds pretty innocuous, right? There are plenty of snacks for women. But this one is receiving a lot of criticism.

Nooyi explained the idea behind the snacks in a recent interview: “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.”

There are of course lots of products geared toward women. Clif Bar may have been the first to target a snack at women with the highly successful Luna Bar; and many more have followed suit, from rival bar maker LaraBar to women’s teas, chocolates, and more.

But there’s a lot that’s Dystopian about Nooyi’s explanation — the need for “low-crunch” or covert purse-hiding. It’s all eerily reminiscent of the 1950s housewife dogma — women should have dinner and drinks ready for when her husband walks in the door; her face should be made up even if she’s been cooking and cleaning all day; she shouldn’t ask too many questions about his work or complain about her day at home with the kids. And most important, according to this new product development: women should be seen, not heard crunching.

Nooyi continues:

“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,” she says. “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.”

I know for my daughter, sticky, flavorful fingers is a selling point, not a deterrent. Crunch factor is pretty high up there, too.

That’s not to say there isn’t room for gender-specific products. I don’t want to wear my husband’s deodorant (mostly because he never wears any). I may prefer another type of beer or even a different energy bar than “the guys”. But that’s because of personal preference, not a fear of crunching or anxiety over crumbs sticking to my fingers.

This product announcement comes as we’re in the midst of women speaking up all across the globe about sexual misconduct, the wage-gap, politics, and our inadequate food system. It seems women want to crunch louder than ever before, actually.

But perhaps PepsiCo is right. The company surely does its market research. Maybe crunching is overrated. But if PepsiCo is truly listening to its customers, it’ll take cues elsewhere — like in product development and procurement of ethical ingredients. It’ll ensure its creating products that meet the growing demand for vegan and organic food, transparency in labeling. It’ll reduce added sugars, salt, preservatives.

Maybe women don’t like to crunch too loudly because they’re ashamed that they’re supporting companies lagging behind in these trends. Maybe they’re just reserving their crunch for a worthy snack. 

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