Frito-Lay, Inc. announced May 3 that it is reducing the saturated fat in its leading potato chip brands, Lay's and Ruffles, by more than 50 percent by switching to NuSunT sunflower oil, a heart healthy oil all without changing the products' taste. In addition to reducing the saturated fats, the move to NuSun sunflower oil will increase the mono- and polyunsaturated fats, commonly known as "good fats." As with Frito-Lay's entire portfolio of snack chips, Lay's and Ruffles continue to have 0 grams of trans fat.
The switch to NuSun sunflower oil is another major step in the company's commitment to health and wellness. Lay's potato chips, Frito-Lay's largest brand with more than $2 billion in sales, is now available with 100% NuSun sunflower oil in the northeast and will be nationally available by the end of the year. The scale and impact of this conversion is similar to Frito-Lay's elimination of trans fat in all snack chips in 2003.
"We are removing nearly 60 million pounds of saturated fat annually from the American diet, while keeping the same great taste," explained Rocco Papalia, senior vice president, research and development, Frito-Lay North America. "And more importantly, by switching to NuSun sunflower oil, we are increasing heart healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats in the diet."
Sunflower oil consists largely of mono- and polyunsaturated fats acids with very small amounts of saturated fatty acids. Scientific research shows that mono- and polyunsaturated fats have heart health benefits that include lowering total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol, whereas saturated and trans fats raise cholesterol levels. NuSun sunflower oil is higher in monounsaturated fat than regular sunflower, which makes it an excellent oil for many food applications.
"Research suggests that balancing fats in the diet by removing unhealthy trans and saturated fats and adding healthier mono- and polyunsaturated fats may be the most beneficial way to manage heart health," said Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, distinguished professor at The Pennsylvania State University, whose research focuses on dietary fats.
A Penn State study1, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, demonstrated that consuming a diet that included NuSun sunflower oil had a greater total and LDL cholesterol-lowering effect than either an "average American" diet or a diet that included an equivalent amount of olive oil. "The benefit was most likely due to the more favorable balance of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in the sunflower oil. Sunflower oil also is lower in saturated fat compared with olive oil," Kris-Etherton said.
In the past several years, dietary recommendations from government agencies and health organizations have put more emphasis on reducing saturated and trans fats and replacing them with unsaturated fats.
Frito-Lay's conversion to 100% NuSun sunflower oil reflects these dietary recommendations.
"In 2003 we followed sound science in using corn oil to eliminate trans fats from Doritos, Cheetos and Tostitos, so that all of our snack chips had 0 grams of trans fat. Today, once again Frito-Lay is following sound science in switching to NuSun which is rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fats" said Papalia. "To help consumers who are looking for foods that provide sources of these good fats, the nutrition panel on Lay's will now list mono- and polyunsaturated content."
Broad marketing support, including a summer promotion and a full advertising plan, are scheduled, kicking off with a radio campaign in the northeast this spring. Consumers will be able to identify Lay's made with NuSun sunflower oil through new packaging that marries the iconic Lay's logo and a sunflower.
"This move is another indication of Frito-Lay's commitment to address consumer interest in leading healthier lifestyles," said Lora DeVuono, group vice president, brand marketing and advertising, Frito-Lay North America. "The research suggests by converting to 100% pure NuSun sunflower oil, we have improved Lay's, our largest brand, and that will positively impact millions of consumers."
Frito-Lay has a long-standing commitment to health and wellness. In the mid 80s, the company launched Reduced Fat Ruffles potato chips. In the early 90s, the great tasting Baked! Lay's potato crisps and Baked! Tostitos tortilla chips were first introduced. Frito-Lay led the industry with its response to trans fats. In 2003, Frito-Lay eliminated trans fats from its entire snack chip portfolio by converting Cheetos, Doritos, and Tostitos to corn oil. In addition, the company listed trans fat on the nutritional panel of our snack chips more than 2 years in advance of the 2006 Food & Drug Administration mandate. Lay's Kettle cooked, Miss Vickie's, and Frito-Lay's Natural line of potato chips are already cooked in NuSun sunflower oil.
Frito-Lay North America is the $10 billion convenient foods division of PepsiCo, which is headquartered in Purchase, NY. In addition to Frito-Lay, PepsiCo divisions include Pepsi-Cola, Quaker Foods, Gatorade and Tropicana.
1. Binkoski A, et. al., Balance of unsaturated fatty acids is important to a cholesterol-lowering diet: comparison of mid-oleic sunflower oil and olive oil on cardiovascular disease risk. J Am Diet Assoc, 2005; 105: 1080-1086.