Indira Nooyi - © 2017

Is Pepsico Planning To ‘Cancel’ Feminism?

Not really. But it looked, for a moment, in a recent interview with the online magazine Freakonomics, that the soft drink and snack giant was preparing to turn back the clock fifty years or so and start marketing products specifically designed for women – ‘women’ with a big, pink capital ‘W’…

Doritos Recent New Flavours - © Doritos - PepsicoSome of Doritos many, many recently introduced new flavours.
But no ‘Lady Doritos’ on the horizon.

We’re not sure if it was a an unintentional leak by Pepsico’s CEO, or an ill-advised joke on the interviewer, but the revelation certainly caused a Tweetstorm when the Freakonomics podcast came out.

CEO Indira Nooyi was born and raied in India and earned two MAs in business before joining Pepsico in 1994. In 2006, she became CEO and had since directed the company on a forward-looking path, which seeks to anticipate trends and come up with new developments in snack and beverage product and packaging formats proactively, rather than reactively.

To be fair, iterviewer Stephen Dubner baited Nooyi with a leading question…

DUBNER: I understand that men and women eat chips very differently. Can you tell us the differences?

NOOYI: When you eat out of a flex bag — one of our single-serve bags — especially as you watch a lot of the young guys eat the chips, they love their Doritos, and they lick their fingers with great glee, and when they reach the bottom of the bag they pour the little broken pieces into their mouth, because they don’t want to lose that taste of the flavor, and the broken chips in the bottom. Women would love to do the same, but they don’t. They don’t like to crunch too loudly in public. And they don’t lick their fingers generously and they don’t like to pour the little broken pieces and the flavor into their mouth.

DUBNER: So is there a male and female version of chips that you’re playing with, or no?

NOOYI: It’s not a male and female as much as “are there snacks for women that can be designed and packaged differently?” And yes, we are looking at it, and we’re getting ready to launch a bunch of them soon. For women,  low-crunch, the full taste profile, not have so much of the flavor stick on the fingers, and how can you put it in a purse? Because women love to carry a snack in their purse.

But women everywhere flooded the Twitterverse with criticism – some extremely harsh and much extremely sarcastic.

Doritios quickly tweeted back:

Doritos Replies to Criticism - © Twitter - DoritosSome felt this was a rather weak, cutsey, defensive response to the tsunami of negativity from fans… But that’s all they said.

Pepsico later issued a formal statement saying they are not planning to engineer or release any women-centric products. As of the timestamp on this post, Indira Nooyi was still CEO of Pepsico.

One thing is certain: Pepsico and its Doritos brand got a huge pile of free publicity with this gambit – if that’s what it was. Or do I give their marketers too much credit for cleverness?

~ Maggie J.