Around 60% of General Mills’ portfolio is already free from artificial additives, but the company said it would drive this up to 75% by January next year – reformulating a range of products, including Reese’s Puffs and Trix cereal.
It said by the end of 2016, the aim was to have completed reformulation on 95% of the portfolio.
“The work has been underway for several months – and we’ve actually been researching flavors and colors for several years – so we’re excited to break the news now,” it said in a statement.
Fruit, veggies and spice
General Mills will be using natural color and flavor sources for its newly reformulated cereals, including fruit and vegetable juices and spice extracts.
However, it said for some products this proved more of a challenge. “Cereals that contain marshmallows, like Lucky Charms and our Monster cereals, are the biggest challenge and may take longer to complete the changes.”
Similarly, bright-colored cereals like Trix were tougher to reformulate, said Kate Gallager, cereals R&D manager at General Mills.
“In the case of Trix, we looked at a wide range of fruits, vegetables and spices in different combinations trying to get the desired color… But we also worked to make a cereal that would not impact extra flavors that we weren’t looking for. Where we’ve landed, is using a pretty broad array of fruit and vegetable concentrates to make up those red and purple colors,” she said.
For the yellow Trix pieces, the team had used turmeric extract and for the orange color; annatto extract.
Gallager said such formulation efforts had taken considerable time, partly because changes to color also impacted flavor.
“If you are just looking at the flavor, and not changing the color at the same time, it’s a bit more straightforward,” she said.
In addition, she said some ingredient sources had not been readily available on the scale or consistency General Mills needed.
Consumers clean-label ready
Jim Murphy, president of General Mills cereal, said consumers were ready for cereals free from artificial ingredients.
“With our consumers, it reached a tipping point in the last couple of years with a 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’,” he said.
Lauren Pradhan, senior marketing manager for wellness strategy in cereal at General Mills, added: “This is about removing barriers to cereal… People have told us they don’t want dyes in their cereal.”
General Mills is the first major cereal maker to make such a pledge, but others have acknowledged the importance in the growing interest and desire for real food.
The Kellogg Company will launch its Origins line this year – cereals, mueslis and granolas made with no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors – characteristics Paul Norman, Kellogg’s chief growth officer, said consumers expected more and more of.
“You know everything that’s in there and can pronounce it - very simple food. And we believe this is exactly where the category needs to lean into,” he said.