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SunChips’ Error in Logic

by Greg Stevens

 

Today’s big news:

SunChips not-so-quietly buries its noisy compostable bags
SunChips Sacks Its Line of Noisy Biodegradable Bags
Frito-Lay sends noisy, ‘green’ SunChips bag to the dump
Is Noise Really Why SunChips Should Ditch Bioplastic Packaging?

Here are the facts:

  • 18 months ago Frito-Lay launched a biodegradable SunChips bag made from plant material that was billed as 100% compostable
  • Many people complained that the bags were too noisy, and specifically much noisier than the original packaging
  • SunChips sales have declined more than 11% over the past 52 weeks, as reported by SymphonyIRI Group, the market research specialist.
  • SunChips presumably makes the link: sales are down because people don’t like the new bags
  • SunChips decides to pull the new bags from production, while still looking for a “quieter” version of a compostable bag.

I’m sorry, but am I the only person who thinks that the data (points 1 – 3) do not support the conclusion (point 4)?

We live in an age where obsessed whiners can shout very loudly.  Facebook pages take no effort to create and even less effort to “like”.  And the continual thrill-seeking media is anxious to report the funny (or thrilling, or stupid, or shocking) story that will pull viewers.  So the fact that some whiny people complained about noisy bags, some bored people thought it was funny and so “liked” a facebook page, and hystrionic media reported it as if it were news, suddenly leads some media consultant somewhere to conclude that the noisey bags actually drove consumer behavior.

In other words: the bags get the blame for the 11% decrease in sales.

 

Is that a logical conclusion?

Let’s be scientists for a moment. What is an alternative hypothesis? What other things do we know about our society, our economy, and our world that could possibly explain a decrease in (of all things) “SunChips” sales?

In a world where every day the headline is about unemployment, foreclosures, and debt, let’s imagine that maybe people are spending less on expensive snack foods.  Let’s put forward the hypothesis that when people are broke and hurting for money, they will want to spend less on food that has absolutely no nutritional value.

Now, with that hypothesis in mind, let’s do a comparison of the price per ounce of some common snack foods:

Snack Table

 

The only snack food on the list that is more expensive per ounce than SunChips is Funyuns. (I wonder how their sales are doing?)

I’m sorry, SunChips, but I think we have a simpler explanation for why your sales might be declining in the last year.  And it’s not your bags.

In the words of an oft-quoted politician: it’s the economy, stupid.


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