Frito-Lay goes green with crunch

The Frito-Lay factory in Casa Grande, Ariz., slices, fries, seasons and portions more than 500,000 lbs. of potatoes on a daily basis.


The Frito-Lay factory in Casa Grande, Ariz., slices, fries, seasons and portions more than 500,000 lbs. of potatoes on a daily basis. This process absorbs enormous amounts of energy and creates large quantities of wastewater, starch and potato peelings. Because of this, Frito-Lay aims to develop an environmentally friendly factory that runs on renewable fuels and recycled water. PepsiCo, the parent company of Frito-Lay, backs the chip manufacturer’s net zero energy action plan.

With the ever-growing concern over fossil fuel use and energy conservation, PepsiCo’s venture capital investment in green technology provides it with several marketing initiatives. For example, Frito-Lay’s Sun Chips brand will advertise itself as made from solar energy, which markets to the public’s growing concern over climate change. Over the recent years, PepsiCo has become the nation’s largest buyer of renewable energy credits, a financial instrument that stimulates the development of renewable energy sources.

Achieving the goal of net zero will not be easy. The retrofitting of the Casa Grande factory, scheduled for completion in 2010, will reduce electricity and water consumption by 90%, natural gas use by 80% and a 50% to 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the company will build at least 50 acres of solar concentrators behind the plant to generate solar power and use a biomass generator that will burn its agricultural waste and provide additional renewable fuel. The process involves installing high-tech filters, which recycle most of the water that rinses and washes potatoes, and incorporating vacuum hoses that pull moisture from potato slices to recapture the water and reduce the amount of heat needed to bake or fry the potato chips. Finally, the burning of the leftover sludge creates methane gas, which will power the plant’s boiler system.

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