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A convienent store customer make a purchase next to a shelf of Frito-Lay snacks. (LISA POOLE/Lisa Poole/AP)
A convienent store customer make a purchase next to a shelf of Frito-Lay snacks. (LISA POOLE/Lisa Poole/AP)

Junk-food oxymoron: Frito-Lay tries all-natural chips Add to ...

The idea of swapping artificial food dyes and flavouring agents for all-natural ingredients sounds good in theory. But will junk-food junkies bite?

In response to health-conscious consumers, snack food giant Frito-Lay is aiming to revamp its products to make half its U.S. snacks from all-natural ingredients by the end of this year, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The trick is, can processed snacks appeal to both consumers who want to eat more healthfully, and those turned off by the idea of messing with their favourite junk foods? For one thing, potato chips aren't exactly a health food, regardless of whether they're made more naturally are not. (Just think of Wendy's new "natural-cut" sea salt fries, which actually contain more salt than the old recipe. Moreover, there are plenty of consumers who believe "natural" is synonymous with bland.

WSJ also reports that some natural ingredients cost up to 35 per cent more than artificial agents, and it's not clear whether this will affect snack prices.

Making natural ingredients taste like the original thing is a finicky process. Frito-Lay told the newspaper it tested more than 300 versions of its barbecue potato chips before coming up with a natural recipe that tasted like the original, without using monosodium glutamate. (The solution involved boosting the molasses, malted barley flour, paprika and other seasonings.)

Of course, Frito-Lay isn't the only company eager to adopt a healthier image. Other food giants, including Kraft and General Mills, have also been responding to consumer demands to limit sugar, salt and saturated fats.

Are these efforts a step in the right direction? Little more than a marketing ploy? Or messing with popular products? Tell us what you think.

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