Formulated in 1964 as the ultimate junk food, capable of delivering limitless flavor profiles from Wasabi Mayo to Winter Crab, Doritos are seated at the top of the junk-food pantheon, with nearly 95% of American households confessing to having eaten at least one bag in the past 30 days. On Super Bowl Sunday, you're almost guaranteed to see a spot for the corn chip and to be snacking on wee fistfulls of them while you watch.
Too bad they're destroying the rainforests.
That's the message of "A Cheesy Love Story," a faux-Doritos ad by Sum of Us, a self-described "movement of consumers, workers and shareholders speaking with one voice to counterbalance the growing power of large corporations." The commercial follows a couple whose relationship seems to revolve around corn-based tortilla chips — and are faced with a troubling ethical quandary when they see where their favorite snack food is being made.
Take a look, and be sure to watch all the way through:
Yikes. The couple travels to "Where It All Begins!" only to discover that the harvesting of palm oil, a key ingredient in many Doritos products and others manufactured by PepsiCo, the parent company of Frito-Lay. Upon seeing the destruction of tropical forests for palm oil, the couple is horrified: "Doritos: May Contain Traces of Rainforest."
The cultivation of palm oil in Africa and Southeast Asia has been an enormous boon to consumer-product companies based in the West, and an enormous burden on the people who inhabit the places where palm oil is found.
"Deforestation in Southeast Asia has made Indonesia the third largest carbon emitter on Earth," the Sum of Us website warns. "The orangutan, the Sumatran tiger, and countless other endangered species are being pushed to the brink of extinction. Many workers are lured into palm oil plantations on false pretenses, and have their passports and IDs confiscated. Investigations have found workers being beaten by 'enforcers,' locked in tiny barracks at night, and not allowed to leave for any reason.
"On top of all of that, the remaining forests of Indonesia are storing as much carbon dioxide as the entire Earth emits in a year, meaning that allowing the destruction to continue could detonate a carbon bomb."
It's crunch time for PepsiCo. With nearly 2 million views on YouTube and hundreds of thousands more on Facebook, "A Cheesy Love Story" has picked up serious traction online for consumers who had no idea that their snacking habits were causing such economic and ecological devastation halfway around the world.
This awareness can make a huge difference: PepsiCo temporarily pulled Pepsi True from Amazon after the soda's page was flooded with thousands of negative reviews due to PepsiCo's links to the palm oil industry.
While Doritos are still going to be public snack No. 1 on Super Bowl Sunday, after a worldwide audience of conscientious consumers have viewed this ad, not even Sean Hayes will be able to distract them from pressuring PepsiCo into revealing just what is going into their food.