Frito-Lay, the US snacks unit of PepsiCo, announced today (3 May) that it has changed the oil used in the production of its most lucrative products to NuSun sunflower oil in order to reduce levels of saturated fats.

The move is a response to the criticisms levelled at the food industry concerning health issues and comes three-years after the company eliminated trans fats from its snacks.

"We are removing nearly 60m pounds of saturated fat annually from the American diet, while keeping the same great taste," said Rocco Papalia, senior vice president, research and development, Frito-Lay North America. "And more importantly, by switching to NuSun sunflower oil, we are increasing heart healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats in the diet."

According to Frito-Lay, the level of saturated fats in its flagship snack food, Lay's Classic potato chips, will be reduced by 66% from three grams to one gram per one-ounce serving. 

The Lay's line of potato chips, consisting of 13 different varieties, is the world's best-selling snack food. Although Frito-Lay manufactures other big brands like Fritos and Doritos, sales of Lay's constituted 25% of the company's total for the last financial year.

Frito-Lay said that the move was likely to boost sales in the short- and long-term. The initial increased marketing spend, including a summer promotion and a full advertising plan, is expected to give sales an immediate push. In the longer term, the company points to the Canadian success of sunflower oil chips, with sales rising by 10% in the year since its introduction. In the UK also, the PepsiCo snack producer Walkers switched to sunflower oil earlier in the year.

"This move is another indication of Frito-Lay's commitment to address consumer interest in leading healthier lifestyles," said Lora DeVuono, group vice president, brand marketing and advertising, Frito-Lay North America. "The research suggests by converting to 100% pure NuSun sunflower oil, we have improved Lay's, our largest brand, and that will positively impact millions of consumers."