Typically, when you’re slamming back potato chips, you’re not really worried about guilt or consequences. The big game is on, you’re at a party, or someone is hosting a cookout. There’s an air of fun and no real worry about tomorrow.
But there are other times. Late night Netflix binges and Bad Day therapy. Some folks reach for the ice cream or the wine, but others grab their party size bag of Lay’s and bring the old slogan to life. You really can’t eat just one. In most cases, that may not be the best way to enjoy so-called “junk food.” But, for certain items in this category, PepsiCo has a different word for it: “guilt free.”
According to PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, as reported by the Associated Press, 45 percent of the company’s revenue now comes from ‘guilt-free’ products such as Baked Lay’s, Simply Tostitos and Diet Mountain Dew. Apparently, not quite as junky junk food has become big business … and you can chalk it all up to marketing.
Other products included in the category include any foods or beverages that contain “positive” ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. So, think Tropicana orange juice … but also some flavors of Doritos. There are limits, too, on the number of calories or the amount of sugar or fat a product can have per serving to fit under the so-called “guilt free” banner.
But does that mean these items are actually “good” for you? Pepsi is hoping you don’t really think about that. You like the taste, right? And these are not as bad as what you were eating, so you’re making a positive choice, right? For many people, that “right” is without irony. They like their snacks, and they’re just trying to enjoy a “better” version of those snacks.
Sure, there are different lines of thinking on this topic. There are the teetotalers. They won’t ever be caught eating a “breakfast cookie” or chugging Diet Dew, but they would drink OJ or enjoy a big, steaming bowl of Quaker Oats. Pepsi has a line of products that can appeal to them.
Pepsi can also speak directly to the parent who maybe noticed they, or their kids, are starting to get a little chubby. There they are, picking up snacks for the next birthday party. In one hand, they have the giant size bag of Classic Lay’s. In the other, the Baked Lay’s. The latter choice makes them feel a little bit better about their purchase.
In the end, the goal of this “guilt-free” category is to make people feel better about the choices they make when buying food that makes them feel better. By creating options for every level of “guilt” Pepsi has set themselves up to win the grocery battle every time.