Snack Attack

PepsiCo Built a Better Potato Chip with 3D Printing


Food giant PepsiCo have been using 3D printers for the research and development of their Ruffles Deep Ridged potato chips since 2011.

pepsicoIt’s a surprising revelation about a humble snack. As far back as 2011, food and beverage conglomerate PepsiCo has been using 3D printing to refine the production of their Ruffles potato chips.

For the uninitiated, Ruffles are different from ordinary potato chips because of their “deep-ridged” structure, which supposedly increases the available surface area for their top-secret flavor delivery mechanism. (SPOILER: It means PepsiCo can add more salt.)

The company is very enthusiastic about the benefits of 3D printing, as Richard Dunham, PepsiCo R&D Senior Director, explains in an interview with TheStreet:

“In the past, to find this perfect potato chip design might have taken 12 to 18 months because we would go and make a hand slicer, create some chips, take it to consumers, and then get their feedback. Now with 3-D printing, we have cut that down to three months.”

PepsiCo crunches down on rapid prototyping

The company developed several prototype Ruffles chips etched from a 3-D printer, and then tested the sizes with consumers to see which they preferred.  The winning prototype was then used as the basis to create a new potato chip slicer at the PepsiCo manufacturing plants.

Dunham reckons that the better designed chip slicer has reduced inefficiencies from the old process. Chips that are too thin and brittle — which would break when dunked in a dip — have been consigned to the dustbin of culinary history.

Another benefit is that a standard chip size for Ruffles has enabled the company to offer wacky flavors such as “hamburger” and “squid”, and bring them to market quicker once they are conceived in the food lab.  Multiple flavors of Ruffles Deep-Ridged chips are available in 30 markets worldwide.

TheStreet reports that PepsiCo has not expanded its use of 3-D printing to its other potato chip brands, though it may look to 3D printing technology to implement further cost savings across the company… especially in the wake of plummeting sales for soda drinks.