PepsiCo is combining product sampling with
storytelling in Argentina in an unusual vending machine that
appears to manufacture Lay's potato chips before your eyes after a
real potato, rather than coins, is dropped in a slot.
The Lay's machine, which will make its first appearance in a
Buenos Aires supermarket this fall, features an intricate system of
tubes, flames and boiling water as the potato is seen going through
six distinct steps: washing, peeling, cutting, cooking, salting and
finally packaging, ending with a bag of Lay's potato chips popping
out of the machine. The process, which looks incredibly real, is
actually a video that appears to show the inner workings of potato
Lay's vending machine
"We thought this would be a great opportunity to show customers
how Lay's are made," said Alfredo Della Savia, brand manager for
salty snacks for PepsiCo ConoSur. "There were rumors Lay's aren't
made from real potatoes, and we're trying to fight that , and show
we have no secrets -- it's potatoes, oil and salt."
At the store, promoters will hand shoppers real potatoes with
stickers inviting them to take the potato and insert it in the
Lay's machine by the snack aisle and watch it be made into potato
chips, said Nicolas Pimentel, the founder of local shop +Castro and a former exec at BBDO Argentina, which worked on the project
led by Mr. Pimentel.
PepsiCo is talking with different retailers the marketer works
with in Argentina like Walmart and Carrefour to
determine where to place the Lay's machine, which will remain in
one supermarket for a week or two before moving to a new location.
Mr. Della Savia said the sampling promotion will start in late
October or early November.
PepsiCo doesn't expect the first Lay's machine to be the only
"This is our first test market, to see how it works and if
people get the idea and like it," Mr. Della Savia said. "We expect
to do more machines, and go around the country. Hopefully it will
He said his PepsiCo colleagues from other countries are
interested in seeing how the Lay's machine works in Argentina.
The Lay's machine will be a highlight of a bigger effort
underway to emphasize that Lay's, by far the leading potato-chip
brand in Argentina, is made entirely of real potatoes, with a
little oil and salt. Packs have been redesigned to show real
potatoes on the back panel, and billboard ads explain Lay's potato
chips contain only potatoes, he said. A similar message appears on
Lay's delivery trucks.
Mr. Pimentel and his team have been working for more than six
months to perfect the Lay's machine, which presented enormous
technical challenges. For instance, a movement sensor was needed so
the machine can sense when a potato is dropped in, and activate
both the one-minute video and a separate system for the lights that
highlight a list of the six steps of washing through packaging as
the video shows the corresponding action. Everything must be
perfectly synchronized, ending with the potato-chip package
dropping out of the machine at the same second the video ends "or
the magic is gone," Mr. Pimentel said.
There's even a small heater at the bottom so the sample pack is
dispensed to the shopper warm, like a freshly cooked potato. But
the heater must turn on briefly to warm each bag and then switch
off, because the machine would melt down if the heater were on all
Finally, the video must be "hyper-realistic," Mr. Pimentel said,
so the potato inserted in the machine seamlessly leads into the
potato-chip-making video. The machine holds about 150 packs of
Lay's. The first, prototype machine cost about $40,000 to develop
and Mr. Pimentel estimates that additional machines would cost
about $20,000 to $30,000 each.
Laurel Wentz is Ad Age's Global and Multicultural Editor, responsible for international and U.S. Hispanic coverage. She is based in New York. She previously covered Europe from Ad Age's London bureau, and before that was Latin America editor, based in Sao Paulo. The best way to reach Laurel is by email at [email protected]