General Mills Joins the Push for Natural Ingredients

General Mills Joins the Push for Natural Ingredients

Your breakfast cereal is about to get real. Like, no more artificially-colored blue moons real.

General Mills announced earlier this week that it’s phasing out artificial colors and flavors in its breakfast cereals. The company has spent the past couple years reformulating the recipes for its popular cereals, and by 2017, only natural colors and flavors will be used.

“People don’t want colors with numbers in their food anymore,” said Jim Murphy, the president of General Mills’ cereal division, in a video posted on the company’s website. “They want their food to be as real as possible, and they want their ingredient list…to represent what they would pull out of their pantry.”

General Mills certainly isn’t the first company to overhaul their recipes. Chipotle has been on a quest to remove GMO products from their menus; Kraft has pledged to replace its day-glo cheese with the real deal; and Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Subway have all recently announced plans to ditch the fake stuff. It’s no secret that market share plays a role in this growing trend — consumers, worried about the potential side effects of artificial food dyes and unpronounceable ingredients, have been favoring companies with cleaner ingredients. Companies, in turn, have been making big changes to avoid losing their increasingly health-conscious customers.

“A study that we conducted with Nielsen told us that 49 percent of households are consciously avoiding artificial flavors and colors,” Lauren Pradhan, General Mills’ Senior Marketing Manager of Wellness Strategy in their Cereal division, told Beachbody. “We wanted to tell families that 60 percent of our cereals are already there, and now the rest of our cereals will be joining them. The response has been incredibly positive throughout this entire process.”

We’re stoked to see natural ingredients trending — and pleasantly surprised to see General Mills joining the clean-eating crusade. After all, this is the company that brings us Lucky Charms, Trix, Reese’s Puffs, and Count Chocula. If they’re on board, it can only be a matter of time before natural ingredients become the norm rather than making headlines.

Cheerios, Kix, and Wheaties are among the General Mills cereals already free of artificial ingredients. But we had to wonder…how they could possibly replicate the rainbow hues of Trix and Lucky Charms using natural alternatives? The answer is pretty simple: They won’t.

While researchers and taste testers have been working tirelessly to make sure the taste stays the same, the natural colors will definitely be more muted. Much like Nicki Minaj, Trix will be abandoning its neon palette for a subtle makeunder.

Four of the six Trix colors will remain. According to the General Mills blog, they’ll use fruits and veggies (like strawberries, radishes, and blueberries) to make red and purple colors. Annatto will provide the orange color, and turmeric will be used for yellow. Sorry, silly rabbit, but there’s no natural substitute for bright blue yet.

The company expects 75 percent of its cereals to be free of artificial colors and flavors by January and they plan to hit 90 percent by the end of 2016, with the last 10 percent on board by the end of 2017. Not surprisingly, the marshmallow-y cereals will be the last to follow suit. Changing the dye in a marshmallow can mess with its texture, so it’s going to take a whole lot of science to come up with a natural version of Boo Berry.

One important note for cereal lovers: As with all foods, “natural” doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want. Cereal is still high in added sugar, so don’t double your portions just because your favorite brand cleaned up its act. The same rules still apply. Look for high-fiber, whole-grain options, and save sugary foods for the occasional sweet treat.