General Mills to remove artificial colors, flavors from cereals

Lucky Charms
General Mills announced Monday that it will begin to remove artificial colors and flavors from its cereals, like Lucky Charms, by the end of 2017.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images 2014

Updated 1:15 p.m. | Posted 8:23 a.m.

Twin Cities-based General Mills announced plans Monday to remove artificial colors and flavors from its line of cereals by the end of 2017.

The company will start with the launch of more natural versions of Trix and Reese's Puffs sometime this winter. Trix will now be colored with ingredients like fruit, vegetable juice and spices like turmeric. Reese's will use now natural vanilla for flavoring, according to a statement released by the company.

Most cereals will still look the same, but some, like Trix, will have slightly different colors because of the natural ingredients, according to a post on the company's website.

Company researchers have tried to create the same colors with the new ingredients without adding any unwanted taste, said Kate Gallager, research and development manager for General Mills Cereal.

"If you are just looking at the flavor, and not changing the color at the same time, it's a bit more straightforward," Gallager said.

The company estimates that about 60 percent of General Mills Cereals products, like the original Cheerios, already are free of artificial ingredients. By the end of 2016, the company predicts that 90 of their products will be free of artificial ingredients.

The move comes in response to a growing awareness of artificial ingredients by consumers. A survey released by the company showed that almost half of all households are trying to avoid artificial ingredients.

"People are more and more interested in the ingredients used on their foods," said Lauren Pradhan, a marketing manager at General Mills.

The survey, she added, "was confirmation for us that we wanted to make this change within cereal."

Vegetable juices, spice extracts and other naturally occurring ingredients will replace the artificial ones, the company said, adding that 60 percent of its cereals are already free of the artificial ingredients.

Some of the most difficult cereals to re-engineer will be cereals like Lucky Charms that contain artificially-flavored marshmallows.

Gallager said in a company statement that removing artificial ingredients from those cereals may take longer, but that General Mills is "committed to finding a way to keep the magically delicious taste."

MPR News reporter Martin Moylan contributed to this report.

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