There are many important issues weighing on the soul of our country right now. So many, in fact, that we need a mental break from them. So let’s chew on some controversial snack news.
Recently, on economist Stephen J. Dubner’s fantastic “Freakonomics” podcast, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi implied that the company would soon be introducing woman-friendly snacks, because gals approach their savory snacking differently than guys.
“When you eat out of ... 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 told Dubner.
Before continuing, let me confirm: In my household, the young man who is the secondary eater of Fritos, Cheetos, Lays potato chips and nacho-cheese flavored Doritos (I hold the dubious honor of being the primary eater of this delicious junk) makes quite the theater of licking fingers with astonishing loudness and lip smacking until the motherly stink-eye quells his culinary clamor.
Nooyi continues: “Women, I think, 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.”
OK, I will grant Nooyi this: When eating my treats, I don’t make a loud, rude spectacle of myself the way a child would (of course, I also don’t eat my junky treats in public).
But let’s be clear: The skull-rattling crunch of Cheetos or Fritos, for instance, is (at least) more than half the appeal. And though you won’t see me pouring the salty crumbs down my gullet, trust me, those delicious little pieces never go to waste.
Dubner asked Nooyi if there were male and female versions of chips that the company was toying with, and she responded, “It’s not a ‘male and female’ as much as (asking ourselves) ‘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 your purse? Because women love to carry a snack in their purse.”
Oh, Indra, noooooo! I don’t know whether I’m more offended that she thinks women are going around worrying about making reasonable chewing sounds when they eat—or that she thinks I carry a purse.
A snack in the purse? Sure, if you’re a mom of preschool-aged children. But could the stereotypes get any staler? Plenty of lady types don’t carry portable pantries.
These are not just the indignant rantings of an unadorned woman with too many salty snacks in the kitchen cupboard.
Women across the globe took to the internet to mock the idea of “Lady Doritos” to the point that PepsiCo had to contradict Nooyi. A spokesperson told media outlets: “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.”
There’s this thing called the “Desi Wall of Shame.” South Asian Americans created it to dishonor prominent members of the Desi community that support President Trump, like U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, FCC Chair Ajit Pai and Raj Shah, a deputy White House press secretary.
I wouldn’t call for it to be opened up to nonpolitical forms of ridiculousness so Nooyi could be added to the list. But the well-respected executive flew awfully close to the sun when overgeneralizing about a segment of the population that is responsible for more than $20 trillion in worldwide spending, a significant portion of which ends up in the chip cupboard at home.
For the umpteenth time, marketers, please stop seeing women as exotic, inscrutable and borderline inhuman consumers who need to be pandered to in the most reductive, surface-level ways.
If snack companies really want to impress the ladies, they ought to think of women simply as lovers of food—and leave the manners to us.