General Mills today (June 22) announced a phased-in, multi-year program to remove artificial flavors and colors from artificial sources from the cereals it hasn't already cleaned up.
"The work has been under way for several months – and we’ve actually been researching flavors and colors for several years – so we’re excited to break the news now," Kevin Hunt, manager of social media, wrote in a company blog. "The change affects roughly 40 percent of our cereals over the next two to three years. Currently, about 60 percent of our cereals already are free of artificial flavors or colors from artificial sources and have been that way for several years. We are aiming for 75 percent by January – including Reese’s Puffs and Trix – and 90 percent by the end of 2016, giving our product developers time to make sure they look and taste great."
Each cereal requires different changes, he noted. Cereals that contain marshmallows, like Lucky Charms and our Monster cereals, are the biggest challenge and may take longer to complete the changes. The project picked up momentum over the past year as the company worked closely with suppliers to find the right ingredients.
“We’re simply listening to consumers, and these ingredients are not what people are looking for in their cereal today,” said Jim Murphy, president of the General Mills cereal division. "With our consumers, it reached a tipping point in the last couple of years with the trend toward simpler food."
He said the goal is to match the taste that consumers love with little to no visible change to the color for most of the cereals the company is reformulating. "Some, like Trix, will look a bit different as we remove colors from artificial sources. For cereals like Trix, we will be using fruit and vegetable juice and spice extracts for color. In Reese’s Puffs, we will use flavors like natural vanilla," said Murphy.
“If you are just looking at the flavor, and not changing the color at the same time, it’s a bit more straightforward,” said Kate Gallager, research and development manager for cereal. Kate. But, she said, any changes in the color have interactions with the flavor. “Part of it is that the sources weren’t readily available on the scale we needed them to be, or at the consistency we needed them to be.”
General Mills joins a growing list of processors and restaurants that over the past month or so have pledged to remove "artificial" ingredients from their food products.