Snack Food and Health: Any Connection?
Although it seems that the terms “snacks” and “health” don’t mix together, we are constantly working to make our snacks healthier. True, snacks could never replace a nutritious lunch, but sometimes when we wish to indulge in a treat and or snack something tasty, we should know that there are people who work on making our snacks a bit more healthy and nutritious, so that even our “small sins” don’t become eventually “big”.
In the past two years, we at Strauss Frito Lay (salty snacks) worked on changes in the nutritional ingredients of some of our salty snacks. It was a long, complex process, because the major thing that would make consumers buy the same snack again is its taste.
The challenge was not to impair the taste of our snacks, while making them healthier (emphasis on “-er”).
At the end of a long and fascinating journey, we managed to attain three significant achievements in the production of salty snacks: a shift to sunflower oil, large reduction in sodium in the Potato Chips- Olive Oil series, and turning the natural-flavor Potato Chips into a gluten-free snack (less than 20ppm).
Shift to sunflower oil: Less saturated fat
Until September 2011 we used palm oil, commonly-used for industrial purposes due to its high heat resistance. Currently, we use sunflower oil in the Cheetos and Potato Chips products, which contains up to 12% saturated fat (70% reduction!)
The oil replacement process was conducted in collaboration with PepsiCo (our partners), that has been examining various fats for the production of potato chips (widely known as “Lays“) in recent years. PepsiCo was searching for two major qualities: low saturated fat level and maximum firmness under heating processes.
Removing gluten from Potato Chips: More consumer options
Over the past year we separated the production process of natural-flavor potato chips from other snacks in order to prevent any traces of gluten. Meticulous lab tests confirm the lack of gluten in this snack, and in order to verify these results, we also send samples to an external independent lab for comparative tests.
Having worked with gluten for such a long time, it’s hard to believe that the new snack has no difference in taste in the new snack, despite the lack of this protein that has irritated so many people.
Considerable reduction in sodium: More healthy
One of the most difficult ingredients to remove from salty snacks is…of course, salt (sodium). As I mentioned before, the main reason for purchasing salty snacks is their salty taste, and therefore, any change in this taste can result in significant reduction in sales.
Therefore, in a two-year process that included hundreds of thousands worth of new equipment and the introduction of tasting tests, we found the way to reduce sodium levels without impairing the winning taste of our snacks. We managed to significantly reduce salt by 40% in the Potato Chips-Olive Oil series and by 9% in natural-flavor Potato Chips.
Our work is not done. All of us in the company realize that this is a long and complex process that will take several more years. However, we embarked on this important journey with a clear goal in mind: create fun, tasty and nutritionally-balanced snacks.