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Frito-Lay: Great Stories Behind an Iconic Brand


Frito-Lay is the leading manufacturer of snack-food, with seven of the ten most popular micro-snacks in the U.S. Consumers enjoy their products in 79 countries, and their billion-dollar brands include Fritos, Doritos, Cheetos, Ruffles, Lays and Tostitos. Other popular brands include Rold Golds, Sun Chips, and Cracker Jack. Yet there is much more to Frito-Lay’s manufacturing story than what meets the taste buds.

The first thing that impresses people about Frito-Lay is often the scope and the efficiency of the business. The potatoes used in North America are harvested from 80 farms in 27 states. The time elapsed from potato farm to bagged snack food is often just 24 or 48 hours. The largest Frito-Lay facility is in Perry, Georgia, at nearly one million square feet. That plant alone operates 12 production lines and ships 64 million cases of chips each year to 18 states.

Based in Plano, Texas, Frito-Lay employs 48,000 people. Globally, the company operates an estimated 55 plants and 1,830 distribution centers. Frito-Lay has been part of the PepsiCo since 1965. Frito-Lay itself was the result of a 1961 merger of the Frito Company (founded in Texas in 1932) and the H.W. Lay Company (established the same year in Tennessee).  

Healthier Snacking. Consumers have become increasingly health conscious in recent years, and that is another part of the Frito-Lay story. The company now offers snacks in three categories: Healthy, Healthier, and Fun. It discontinued the use of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils in 2003. Its chips contain zero grams of trans fat per serving. In many global markets, they are using heart-healthier oils such as sunflower, corn, and soybean oil. Sunflower oil is used in the U.S., reducing the saturated fat content in chips by more than half. The company says that a serving of most of its snack chips includes no more sodium than a slice of white bread.

As an international company, Frito-Lay caters to different tastes from country to country. Accordingly, it offers alternative flavors and different snack products in Mexico, Brazil, Europe, Australia, and Asia. PepsiCo recently built R&D centers in China and Germany to explore, test, and develop new food products and variations that meet the expectations of these international customers.

Sustainability. Sustainability and environmental stewardship constitute another important part of the Frito-Lay story. Food-products manufacturing relies heavily on water and electricity. The company’s vision was to transform an existing plant as far off the electricity grid as possible, while producing no landfill waste. In 2011, Frito-Lay announced that its Casa Grande, Arizona plant had achieved near-net-zero status, as follows: The plant generates two-thirds of its electricity from renewable sources. A biomass boiler uses wood and agricultural waste as its source for combustion energy to produce steam, which reduces natural gas use by 80 percent. New technologies have reduced water usage by more than one-half. Less than 1 percent of waste goes to landfill, thanks to recycling and other measures.  The facility was the first to achieve the Green Building Council LEED Existing Building Gold Certification.

Drawing on what it learned in Casa Grande, Frito-Lay is working to reduce the environmental footprint of all of its plants, and to reduce fuel use in its fleet of trucks, as well. The Casa Grande plant won the 2012 U.S. Water Prize from the Clean Water Alliance, and the Beloit, Wisconsin site was honored in 2013 with a Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council Green Master award. Along with numerous other distinctions, the company also has 17 Green Building Council LEED sites in the U.S.

All of which affirms that you don’t need to choose between great tasting snacks and Great Manufacturing Stories.