Beanitos are one of the most nutritional salty snacks that are always corn-free, gluten-free, preservative-free, non-GMO Project-verified, and certified Kosher. On top of this, Beanitos’ chips are a source of plant-based protein: white beans have the lowest fat and highest protein concentration, black beans have the lowest calories, and pinto beans support white/red blood cell health because they are high in folate concentrations. Pricing of these snacks is also comparable to leading brands because a 5-ounce pack of 6 ranges from $16-$26, depending on the flavor. Though it’s important to acknowledge the efforts Beanitos has taken to ensure a healthier snacking alternative, it is necessary to call them out for their lack of transparency and sustainability.
Sustainable improvements are crucial for farming techniques, but even more so among the supply and production chains, so emissions can be minimized while fair and just labor practices are simultaneously practiced. Even though greenwashing is prevalent throughout many industries and corporations like Beanitos, it will not suffice much longer as consumers are increasing the calls for accountability, transparency, and tangible commitments towards sustainability. While these chips are definitely healthier than most, throughout their lifecycle, they still create a similar number of negative environmental implications as unhealthier chips. Having zero environmental consequences is close to impossible, but it is possible to minimize the overall extent of impacts at every stage of a product’s lifecycle by constantly improving corporate sustainability.
When it comes to chips, many of us tend to go for Doritos - or one of the other Frito-Lay, PepsiCo snack brands - which is a classic and delicious savory snack, though it may not be the healthiest for humans or the planet. Unlike Doritos, Beanitos tortilla chips are made of beans instead of corn and have no artificial flavoring, making them healthier and just as tasty. Beans are considered a sustainable crop, partially due to their ability as a superfood to confine more nutrients in soil during the cultivation process. Increased soil nutrient storage maintains good soil health while decreasing the likelihood of environmental degradation. Beanitos sources white, pinto, or black beans from American bean farmer’s in Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Colorado; they also ensure unnecessary transportation steps are avoided to give “farm to bag” dining that benefits the flavor, nutritional value, and environment. This commitment is reflected in the 4g of fiber and 5g of protein per serving (> 2x that of leading brands), especially since their total protein has increased 25% since Beanitos’ launch in 2010.
As a consumer, I value that these chips are certified both vegetarian and kosher, and are allergen and preservative-free because they are a healthy alternative that is available globally/online. Sustainable ingredients are becoming more essential in today’s products, but it should not stop there because sustainable packaging is equally as important. Traditional chip bags are not recyclable because they’re composed of a thin, inseparable inner aluminum and outer plastic layer. It is not easy to create the world’s most sustainable product, but industries can and should continuously invest in improving product sustainability and publicly elaborate on their updated commitments/progress.
Although nutritional value is of utmost importance to Beanitos, the same value can be attained with more environmental benefits through the sourcing of organic beans. Since no claims are made disclosing the sourcing of organic beans for manufacturing, I must assume there are none, even though it’s a fairly simple sustainable commitment they can take. Tapioca starch/flour is sourced from the South American cassava plant and gives the chips a perfect crisp; while making the chips gluten-free, the little available information makes me concerned about how ethically these plants are sourced and the emissions released from transportation. Similarly, another area of concern in terms of emissions, is how beans are transported from farmers and if Beanitos uses any renewable energy sources. Transporting supplies must account for a bulk of Beanitos’ emissions, but the lack of transparency makes their carbon footprint more unclear. Efforts incorporating renewable energy systems or electricity-based transportation systems should be made to minimize environmental impacts via current supply chain transportation methods.
Since there are no claims on renewable energy use, we must sadly infer that Beanitos is dependent on fossil fuel-based sources. This is especially disheartening because it’s unclear how energy-intensive the chip production process can be. The beans are slow-cooked on low heat and are then combined with white rice to finally be turned into masa for the chips. Even though renewable methods aren’t utilized, this is one of the easiest steps that a company, like Beanitos, can take to become more sustainable and less carbon-intensive. Another effort Beanitos should take is improving transparency on their supply/production chains to clarify impacts they have minimized versus impacts they still need to minimize. The brand emphasizing their use of beans as a sustainable crop seems like greenwashing since even though the crop is nutritional to us and the soil, no other visible efforts are being made towards improving sustainability. While it is important for ingredients to be sustainably sourced, it is equally important for production methods to be renewable so prior sustainable achievements aren’t offset.
Since Beanitos’ launch in 2010, they have become a leader in better-for-you snacks with one of the highest nutritional profiles in salty and flavorful chips. While Giannella Alvarez, the Beanitos CEO, emphasizes the nutritional and environmental value of protein, fiber, and antioxidants from this plant-based superfood, she strategically excludes areas in need of improvement or transparency. Benefits of bean farming include consuming less water, releasing no methane, and increasing nutrients per acre with higher nitrogen storage; nitrogen tends to be a limiting nutrient for plant growth, making increased nitrogen storage more desirable. Even though bean farming practices are environmentally beneficial, the gaps of information concerning Beanitos’ sourcing and manufacturing processes hinder our ability to analyze their negative environmental implications. Although labor laws in the US are relatively strict, this does not mean they are stringent enough to ensure good worker's rights and living conditions.
Chip manufacturing seems simple, but, without transparency, we cannot evaluate how laborious the working conditions are and if wages are adequate for workers to pay bills and acquire basic necessities. Beanitos may not excel in sustainability, but they have made tremendous efforts in terms of nutrition and consumer accessibility. Aside from being healthy and vegetarian, they have gone the extra mile by making entirely vegan options like Twist of Lime, Pinto Sea Salty, Restaurant Style, and Original OMG Sea Salt. I love how these chips are made for anyone regardless of dietary restrictions because they are nutritious, allergen-free, and have a low glycemic index to help maintain consistent energy and blood sugar levels. However, Beanitos has zero commitments or goals in terms of sustainability, so they definitely have areas to grow in before they fulfill the claim that Beanitos is good for people and the planet. Sustainability will not be achieved overnight, but the process will become easier if companies, like Beanitos, remain accountable for their own sustainable development and establish transparency with their environmental impacts - both good and bad.