What Were They Thinking #46 Wow! Chips: Low Fat Chips with a loose side effect

Companies are always trying to develop low fat and low-calorie alternatives. Whether it’s a diet cola or lower calorie snacks, food companies are always trying to develop products that will cater to those on a diet or those watching their weight.

In 1968, researchers at Proctor & Gamble accidentally discovered Olestra as a fat substitute, food additive. It took over 20 years before Proctor & Gamble and the Food and Drug Administration could figure out whether it should be approved as a food additive because of some side effects we’ll mention later.

In 1998, Frito-Lay introduced the Wow! line of chips that contained Olestra. The Wow! Line included fat-free substitutes of Lays, Ruffles, Doritos, and Tostitos. The first year sales were $400 million and the second year was only $200 million in sales. Why the loss in sales? Well, Olestra has this little side effect. For many, Olestra can cause abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. It also caused fecal incontinence, which is also known as anal leakage. In addition, Olestra inhibits the absorption of some vitamins and other nutrients. So Lays had to add Vitamins A, D, E, and K to their chips.

There is nothing less appetizing to see a warning label on a food product that eating the product could cause abdominal cramping and loose stool. While 50% fewer calories and no fat for a chip is a great thing, loose stool is a bad side effect.

While Frito-Law pulled their plug on Wow! Chips, they brought them back in 2004 under a new Light brand, which flopped again because people want chips without abdominal and fecal issues.

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