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Continued: Schafer: Food firms scramble to embrace latest fads

  • Article by: LEE SCHAFER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 13, 2014 - 9:57 PM

As Holm described it, the evolution of the company’s gluten-free strategy was largely driven by consumers. They heard from people on restricted diets who get really sick of eating the same old foods, for example, and who wanted far more choices.

So General Mills has launched such products as Vanilla Chex and has provided more “great tasting, gluten-free recipes made from Chex,” Holm said, building on the tradition of the Chex party mix recipe.

General Mills beefed up its gluten-free advertising beginning in 2010 and, from fiscal 2010 through fiscal 2013, Chex generated double-digit sales growth each year.

General Mills, by the way, isn’t running some sort of game on naive consumers. The company sure isn’t making any health claim about gluten-free. If health-conscious consumers with no gluten sensitivity switch to Rice Chex, well, that’s their choice.

The gluten-free trend perhaps has a way to go before fading, but it’s becoming clear what’s about to follow it. Just look at what’s happened with the venerable Cheerios.

General Mills confirmed, via a website blog that I needed explicit directions to find, that the original Cheerios cereal will come in a box that says it was not made with genetically modified ingredients (GMO).

Much like in the case of Rice Chex, going non-GMO with Cheerios required no reinvention. The original Cheerios is primarily made from oats and there are no genetically modified oats grown, according to the company.

What’s different is that now the small amount of cornstarch and sugar used will be non-GMO. But even that is mostly a detail as Cheerios happen to be one of the lowest-sugar cereals on the market.

General Mills still doesn’t believe that using genetically modified ingredients poses any sort of health risk to consumers, and repeated that view again the day it posted its short blog item.

“We think consumers may embrace it,” said Tom Forsythe, the vice president of global communications.

Selling things consumers may embrace is what General Mills is in business to do. • 612-673-4302

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