General Mills Removing Artificial Colors, Flavors from Cereals

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Cereal Giant Plans to Make Change by the End of 2017

General Mills removing articifial dyes, ingredients from cereals
General Mills plans to remove artifical dyes and preservatives from more than 90 percent of its cereals by the end of 2016. The rest will be phased out by the end of 2017. General Mills

America's mealtime tables are getting simpler and simpler -- now even at breakfast. General Mills has announced that some of their most iconic kid's cereals -- Lucky Charms, Trix, and Reese's Puffs among them -- will lose their artificial flavors and colors by the end of 2017. Replacing the artificial ingredients will be fruit and vegetable juices and spice extracts such as turmeric and annatto.

“At General Mills Cereals, we have been upgrading the nutrition and ingredients in our cereals for years to meet people's needs and desires,” said Jim Murphy, president of the General Mills cereal division. “We’ve continued to listen to consumers who want to see more recognizable and familiar ingredients on the labels and challenged ourselves to remove barriers that prevent adults and children from enjoying our cereals.”

Currently, more than 60 percent of the company's cereals, including Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Original Cheerios, are already without artificial colors and flavors. Trix and Reese's Puffs will be the first to be changed, with consumers seeing boxes with the new recipes in supermarkets by this winter. While Trix will switch to juices and spices to get those iconic rainbow colors, Reese's Puffs will simply continue to use the same natural ingredients -- peanut butter and cocoa -- to get their look and flavor. The company says 90 percent of their cereals will be free of artificial ingredients by the end of 2016. The rest will follow suit a year later.

Natural Colors Could Change the Look of Some Cereals

The company said in a blog post on their website that the change could cause the cereals to look "a bit different."

“We have a lot of hard work ahead of us and we know some products will present challenges as we strive to uphold the taste, quality, and fun in every spoonful of cereal,” said Kate Gallager, General Mills cereal developer. “Cereals that contain marshmallows, like Lucky Charms, may take longer, but we are committed to finding a way to keep the magically delicious taste as we work to take out the artificial flavors and colors from artificial sources.”

General Mills commissioned Nielsen to conduct an online survey of consumers to find out their food choice preferences. Researchers found that "49 percent of households are making an effort to avoid artificial flavors and colors from artificial sources.1"

General Mills has made changes in response to consumer preferences as far back as the 1930s ​when they fortified Kix cereal with B vitamins, Vitamin D, and minerals. Since then they've added at least eight grams of whole grains per serving to all of their "Big G" cereals and lowered sugar levels in all of their kids cereals.

Many companies are making similar changes. A few months ago, Kraft Foods announced that they are changing the recipe of its iconic Macaroni & Cheese, eliminating synthetic colors and artificial preservatives in early 2016 for consumers in the United States, and by the end of 2016 for consumers in Canada, promising that the new version will look and taste the same as the original.

"We're simply listening to consumers and these ingredients are not what people are looking for in their cereal today," Murphy said in the blog post. “With our consumers, it reached a tipping point in the last couple of years with the trend toward simpler food. I remember the meeting where we all looked at each other and said ‘We’re just done with these, we’re going to do the whole line.'"

1 Based on an online survey conducted by Nielsen on behalf of General Mills from 8/18-9/8/14 among a national sample of 31,375 Nielsen Homescan Panel households. 

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