There’s something of a camaraderie that accompanies a good bout of complaining. From ragging on the celebrities everyone loves to hate to fussing about annoying noises ranging from construction to kids on your lawn, the old adage that “bitching is bonding” holds true, moreso in the 21st century than ever. While it’s the goal of snack food companies to give customers the desired taste and experience when it comes to providing, sometimes consumers’ dislike of a certain aspect becomes a product’s main selling point.
I wrote a while ago about the near PR disaster of Lady Doritos. In sum, the idea was that female Dorito consumers were turned off by the unsightly fluorescent orange powder on the chips that would rub off on fingers and lips during consumption. In addition, the loud “crunch” of the chip and accompanying orange crumbs that stick to clothing also dissuaded some female snackers, at least according to the market research Indra Nooyi rattled off in her appearance on Freakonomics.
The backlash to Nooyi’s statements included sentiments that the powder and crumbs were all a part of the Doritos experience, and not something that women were particularly upset about. Op-ed after op-ed explained how the need for fewer crumbs or less powder wasn’t a gendered desire, and that marketing a snack to one gender or another has to be done very carefully to avoid a wild backlash. Everything that Nooyi said women hated about Doritos is integral to their experience, and thus part of what people look forward to when they buy a bag.
Doritos has made it clear in the past that the cheesy dust powder can easily be done away with and that it simply adds texture — little if nothing to the taste. And yet, at the threat of losing it, the internet flipped out. Sometimes, the things we hate most are also the things we love the most, and snack food companies are left struggling to determine when to get rid of the things that receive the most complaints or to capitalize on them as a part of their brand. In this case, the public couldn’t imagine a Dorito without sticky spicy powder, so sticky-powder covered we’ll remain.
The same thing, it appears, has happened with Nature Valley Granola Bars. All throughout the internet, healthy snackers post complaints of the crumbliness of the granola bars, noting that the bars are impossible to eat without dropping tiny crumbs all over the floor, keyboard, or clothing you’re wearing. However, despite all the fussing consumers do, Nature Valley has no intention of reducing the crumbliness of the bars because it’s a part of what people expect when they think of the signature nutty snack. Between the internet phenomena and market differentiator (most other granola bars are chewy), Nature Valley takes pride in the crumbs — because we all love hating them so much.