Upstart PeaTos escalates Frito-Lay rivalry amid pandemic snacking boom

Dive Brief:

  • Snack food brand PeaTos launched an “intentionally provocative” campaign across digital and out-of-home that challenges rivals owned by PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay division to a fight, per a press release. Titled “Hey Chester…,” the effort makes a direct nod to Cheetos’ Chester Cheetah mascot.
  • PeaTos also takes aim at Frito-Lay brand Funyuns, positioning itself as a healthier and more sustainable alternative. Promotional images show PeaTos chips closely resembling a raised middle finger, a sword and boxing gloves, with copy taunting the legacy labels through lines like “Hey Chester, We Did it Better!” and “Get Ready for a Knockout.”
  • The tagline, “Junk Food Without the Junk,” similarly pushes PeaTos’ line of products with a healthy edge. The company also signed retired NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady for a series of social media initiatives promoting its label.

Dive Insight:

PeaTos, the snacking brand that makes its products with a pea and lentil base instead of corn, has been targeting legacy marketer Frito-Lay since it came to market. The latest effort shows the Los Angeles-based upstart looking to escalate the feud as snacking booms under the coronavirus pandemic, as the health crisis has led to a spike in pantry-loading and consumers returning to comfort food.

PeaTos is aiming to steal market share away from Frito-Lay at a critical moment by positioning its products as something consumers can indulge in without fearing a health downside.

“We’re welcoming the dawn of a new era of no compromise in which you don’t have to choose between your favorite comfort foods or your healthier lifestyle,” Nick Desai, founder and CEO of PeaTos, said in a press statement.

PeaTos has a history of taunting its well-known rival Cheetos, which its brand name closely resembles. In 2018, PeaTos introduced a paw print logo and tagline, “tigers live longer than cheetahs” — another swipe at Chester Cheetah — that led Frito-Lay parent PepsiCo to file a cease-and-desist letter against World Peas Brand Peatos.

The latest campaign continues this tradition by challenging Cheetos to step into the ring, which doubles as an allusion to PeaTos’ two ring-shaped chip variants. PeaTos is using the opportunity to push the curly snack that mirrors Frito-Lay’s Funyuns.

“Hey Chester…” builds on other combative efforts from PeaTos in recent months. In May, PeaTos launched a direct-to-consumer (DTC) website, BetterSnacks.com, just one week after PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay debuted its own DTC offering, Snacks.com, Food Dive reported. Both brands have a big opportunity to sell products online as consumers look for contactless ways to purchase food while staying home.

The PeaTos campaign also comes at a time when many parents are sending their kids back to school, both virtually and in person, and are stocking up on snack foods. Offering something tasty that kids will like, but promoting the health benefits, could help PeaTos boost sales at this time of year.

The press release points out that salty snacks represent a $28 billion market and 81% of consumers have expressed a desire to consumer more “better-for-you” snacks. PeaTos aims to appeal to these consumers with the tagline, “Junk Food Without the Junk.”

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