- PepsiCo is developing snacks specifically for women, CEO Indra Nooyi said on an recent episode of Freakonomics Radio, according to Quartz. The company has not announced what these new "snacks for her" would look like or how much they will cost. Nooyi said the maker of Doritos and Cheetos is getting ready to launch several female-focused products soon.
- In the radio spot, Nooyi explained men and women eat chips differently. She claims men lick the flavor dust from chips off their fingers and like emptying the leftovers crumbs at the bottom of the bag directly into their mouths. Women, she said, do not enjoy these elements of chip eating, and they also prefer not to crunch too loudly in public.
- On Monday, PepsiCo refuted reports that claimed the company was developing "Doritos for women," specifically. "The reporting on a specific Doritos product for female consumers is inaccurate," a spokesperson told Ad Age."We already have Doritos for women–they're called Doritos, and they're enjoyed by millions of people every day. At the same time, we know needs and preferences continue to evolve and we're always looking for new ways to engage and delight our consumers."
Certain products lend themselves to being gender specific. Right or wrong, yogurt and kale are marketed to women; beer and beef typically more to men. But there are many foods such as chips that are thought to be gender neutral both in consumption and advertising. This PepsiCo news, however, suggests this may no longer be the case.
As consumers, women are a logical group to target. Females represent 70 to 80% of all consumer purchases, so it makes sense to appeal to the gender that has this much spending power. But appealing to female consumers in the right way is key.
A quick glance at the many scathing, tongue-in-cheek Amazon reviews of Bic’s pens ‘For Her’ illustrates what the wrong kind of gendered product and marketing looks like. Still, many brands in the food space have successfully created and marketed products to women without getting slapped with a "sexist" label. Yoplait and Special K have both focused on appealing to women in the past.
Alcoholic beverages have been an area where gender lines are a bit more defined. Nielsen data shows only about 36% of American women say they drink beer, compared to 38% for spirits and another 56% who consume wine. It’s not surprising to see more beer commercials geared to male consumers, and more magazine ads featuring a crisp Pinot Grigio focused on female shoppers.
Still, there are opportunities to capture further market reach if brands pay attention. AB InBev saw that it’s Bud Light Lime-A-Rita was popular with women, who represented 65% of the brand's buyers. In 2017, it re-launched the product, switching from a neutral marketing strategy to one specifically targeting women, complete with TV ads directed by Tricia Brock, a "Gossip Girl", "Orange is the New Black" and "Girls" alum.
But PepsiCo’s proposed snacks "for her" have already begun to alienate its audience, rather than appeal to it. Consumers who heard rumors of upcoming "Doritos for her" took to Twitter to accuse the brand of sexism under the hashtag #LadyDoritos. And though the company responded to the complaints by assuring no such product is being developed, the damage may already be done. Snacks, like pens, have a genderless affiliation in today’s world. PepsiCo would be prudent to tread lightly with the "ladylike" qualities Nooyi mentioned in her interview or face further backlash and lingering negative sentiment.
That said, a chip that doesn’t crumble to pieces at the bottom of the bag and doesn’t require finger licking or washing hands after eating does have a market. This could be a product appreciated by consumers of both genders — especially adult professionals looking for a salty snack without the mess. If developed and marketed the right way, this could be a lucrative new venture.
PepsiCo's FritoLay division already has Stacy’s Pita Chips, Baked Lays and Grain Weaves, which have similar qualities to the ones Nooyi described, but they haven’t been marketed as "snacks for her." The new chips that are in development could be a nice complement to these existing products, and help point the way to a new growth opportunity in the snack space if they do well.