General Mills will remove artificial colors and flavors from its fruit snacks, a particularly colorful product and a favorite with kids.
The move comes two months after General Mills announced it would phase out artificial colors and flavors in cereal, its biggest U.S. product line.
Axing artificial colors and flavors is part of a food industry trend toward “cleaner” labels free of ingredients that aren’t natural, or don’t look that way. Consumers are showing an increasing wariness over processed food, a negative for packaged food sales.
General Mills, which has its headquarters in Golden Valley, expects to have eliminated artificial ingredients from its fruit snacks “shapes” by early 2016, said Jacquie Klein, a senior marketing manager. Shapes, which make up about half of the fruit snacks business, include treats patterned on everything from Scooby Doo and SpongeBob cartoon characters to berries and cherries.
The rest of the product line — Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Gushers and Fruit Roll-Ups — will have artificial ingredients removed by the end of 2017.
“We’re really doing this because we’ve heard from families who say this will make the products better,” Klein said. In a marketing study last year, General Mills found that more than 50 percent of current and lapsed fruit snack consumers would more likely buy the product if it didn’t have artificial colors and flavors.
The company will replace artificial dyes with fruit and vegetable juices, Klein said. The fruit snacks are primarily made with fruit juice concentrate — usually pear or apple — and sugar or corn syrup.
Reformulations are risky because they can be expensive and turn off customers if not done right. But re-engineering fruit snacks won’t be as complicated as swapping out artificial colors and flavors in cereal.
“We know we can make this work,” Klein said.
General Mills says its fruit snacks capture about 45 percent of the U.S. market for such products. The company doesn’t break out sales for the product, but said they have been relatively flat.
The fruit snacks line accounts for about 80 percent of General Mills fruit snacks portfolio, which also includes products under the Mott’s and Fiber One brands. Snacks made under those brands already contain no artificial flavors and ingredients.