The Internet is unhappy about a potential new line of Frito-Lay chips for women.
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi said that her company has looked into making chips that are “low-crunch,” because women don’t like to make noise in public while eating. Men, apparently, have no such qualms.
“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,” Nooyi said during an interview on Freakonomics Radio last week.
“Women would love to do the same, but they don’t,” she continued. “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.”
Asked if her company, which owns Frito-Lay, the maker of Doritos, is considering making a “male and female version of chips,” Nooyi said: “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…”
The backlash on Twitter began almost immediately. Many critics said the comments were sexist and added that many women are perfectly happy crunching on Doritos, pouring the leftover crumbs into their mouths, licking their fingers, and storing flimsy chip bags in their purses.
Some referenced the similarly maligned Bic for Her pens, which were first written about by Jezebel in 2011. These pens were specifically designed and marketed to women, and were mocked endlessly in Amazon reviews.
Nooyi’s comments come during a time of increased awareness of sexism and harassment in the workplace amid a number of high-profile cases involving Hollywood, media, and other industries. For the record, Nooyi is one of the most prominent female CEOs and part of only a small club of 27 female CEOs in the Fortune 500 (there will only be 24 in April 2018).
It’s unclear what the planned chips will be like. Fortune contacted Frito-Lay for more information about both the potential chips and the Internet backlash. We’ll update when we hear back.
A spokesperson for PepsiCo told BuzzFeed News in a statement that, “The reporting on a specific Doritos product for female consumers is inaccurate. We already have Doritos for women – they’re called Doritos.”
“At the same time,” the statement continued, “we know needs and preferences continue to evolve and we’re always looking for new ways to engage and delight our consumers.”
If anything, this incident shows how difficult it is to market to and reach customers without alienating them—especially when producing an ostensibly unisex item gender specific.
Updated 2/6/2018 at 11:27 a.m. PT: This piece was updated to add PepsiCo’s comments to BuzzFeed News.