PepsiCo is desperate to convince Indians that a popular snack isn’t made of plastic

Damage control.
Damage control.
Image: AP Photo/Seth Perlman
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A decade after disparaging videos surfaced alleging that one of its most popular snack brands contained plastic, PepsiCo India is fighting back legally.

Armed with an interim Delhi high court order, the India unit of the American food and beverage giant is now nudging social media companies to pull down such content on Kurkure, a corn-puff product launched in 1999.

On June 01, the court pronounced that PepsiCo is free to ask social media platforms to remove “3,412 Facebook links, 20,244 Facebook posts, 242 YouTube videos, six Instagram links, and 562 tweets” with defamatory content, news website MediaNama reported on July 26. The order was based on a petition moved by the company in May this year, which stated that in the absence of a court order, these platforms would be unable to remove such content.

“Fake news suggesting that Kurkure has plastic in it has adversely affected brand’s reputation. Due to such fake and defamatory content circulating on the social media, PepsiCo India was constrained to move the Hon’ble Delhi High Court…this step has been taken to protect brand equity, a matter that we take very seriously at PepsiCo,” a company spokesperson told Quartz in an email.

The company has been in touch with various social media platforms to remove such content since 2013, the petition said.

Plastic controversy

Kurkure was launched as the company felt the need for a more local brand, even though its Lay’s chips were popular in India. The new product soon developed a large consumer base with its spicy, tangy flavour.

It was in 2008 that a video showing a burning strand of Kurkure first surfaced. The clip claimed this as evidence of the presence of plastic in the snack, sparking furore in the company. PepsiCo has since been in damage-control mode.

Over the years it has launched new variants, revamped the product’s packaging, and even played up its ingredients to put customers at ease.

“We realised there is a lot of suspense around Kurkure—nobody knew what it was made of. As opposed to say, potato chips. Which is why we have focussed on the ingredient story. If you see all our new packaging it has a lot visible ingredient display,” Jagrut Kotecha, vice-president for PepsiCo India’s snacking category, told Quartz in an interview last week.