PepsiCo’s baked potato chips are an outstanding example of fat reduction in a popular snack and from a public health perspective it is a tragedy they are not a mainstream choice, a nutrition expert says.
PepsiCo developed its baked potato chip variety using specialist technology - spraying a thin film of oil on potato slices and microwaving the product. The product boasts 70% less fat than regular potato chips.
“The result is an astounding fat content reduction in a very popular food,” nutrition policy specialist, Professor Jack Winkler, said.
“This is a product which by using a different technology has cut actually more than 70% of its fat content,” Winkler told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“In many food products, a transformation of that magnitude would be widely celebrated,” he said.
Little acknowledgement, weak presence
However, the professor said the product has received few endorsements and little acknowledgement from nutrition and health experts. “Potato chips are the archetypal bad food and they can’t bring themselves to say anything good about them.”
Furthermore PepsiCo’s baked potato chips have limited distribution and its regular counterpart significantly outweighs it in terms of store presence, he said.
“This is a product with many virtues and my fear is that for bad reasons, it’s not going to realize its full potential.”
“It’s a tragedy that baked potato chips have such limited distribution at present,” Winkler said.
“In principle, this is a product that should sell wherever regular potato chips sell.”
‘Outstanding’ fat reduction
In research updated especially for BakeryandSnacks.com Winkler presented data comparing the fat content of the UK Walkers potato chip product with other foods, typically recommended as healthy options by nutritionists.
Two packs of PepsiCo’s baked potato chips have less fat than a standard glass of milk, less fat than a recommended matchbox portion of cheddar cheese and less than half the fat content of an average size porridge oats bowl.
Compared to 100g of mackerel, 100g of baked potato chips contain three-quarters the amount of fat and compared to 100g of chicken, only 59%.
Salt levels are also significantly lower than regular potato chips, the professor noted.
A standard pack of potato chips contains 1.96g of salt per 100g compared to 0.93g in the baked variety.
The health-push failing
The globe’s current health strategy has failed, Winkler said. “For 40 years, there has been a heavy emphasis on education and information to change diets… but in my view we must be doing something wrong.”
“In my strategy – the pragmatic – manufacturers must start with foods consumers like now and improve the nutritional profile of these products,” he said.
“PepsiCo’s baked potato chips are a supreme example of this but it is not being picked up because it is such a contentious food in its present form,” he said.
“If this product became the mainstream range the technology could make a difference to obesity rates in children and public health overall,” he said.