A new brand of tortilla chips recently added to local grocery shelves would seem well-suited for people who prefer to buy local.
The product is "La Cocina De Josefina Mexican Restaurant Style Tortilla Chips," and the sign in some stores says they're made in Vancouver.
A closer look at the package reveals the business address matches that for the manufacturing plant for Frito-Lay, a snack food industry giant whose products dominate the chips section of most grocery stores.
It turns out that Frito-Lay has launched the Josefina tortilla chips in Oregon, Washington and Idaho to test market acceptance of the thicker tortilla chips commonly offered in Mexican restaurants.
Across the Columbia in Hood River, Ore., Juanita's Fine Foods president Luis Dominguez can't help but feel that Frito-Lay is doing its test in the Northwest because of the growing popularity of his company's restaurant-style tortilla chips, along with those produced by Eugene-based Carmen's Chips.
He said he's worried that some of his customers will be confused by the similar brands and packaging, as well as the pitch to buy local.
"They copied our label to confuse the consumer and to knock us down," Dominguez said. "They're the giants. Don't get me wrong. They scare me."
Aside from the Vancouver address, Frito-Lay is staying in the shadows in this product rollout. Josefina's is not listed as a Frito-Lay brand on the company's website. The corporate name doesn't pop up on a call to Josefina's toll-free number, listed on the chip package. The recorded message is delivered first in Spanish and then in English.
Dominguez said he'd heard a rumor about four months ago that Frito-Lay was coming out with a "knock-off" to compete against his company's chips, a strong competitor to Frito-Lay's tortilla chips and Doritos in the Northwest.
A spokeswoman on behalf of Frito-Lay's North American headquarters in Plano, Texas, who asked not to be identified, said the company is always looking for new products to offer that satisfy local markets. "We've really looked at what our consumers are demanding and enjoying, and our portfolio is based on community needs," the spokeswoman said.
Frito-Lay is not named, she said, because,"this is a specialty brand in the Northwest. We wanted it to have that local feel." The labeling could change, the spokeswoman said, if the product is rolled out to a larger market.