Schwan Food Co. will remove artificial ingredients and high-fructose corn syrup from its branded products over the next two years.
The plan announced Wednesday is part of the food industry trend toward simpler ingredients and “cleaner” labels, a response to shifting consumer tastes.
“This is one of those core investments that we will make,” said Stacey Fowler, Schwan’s senior vice president for product innovation. The company will spend $12 million this year alone for the ingredient overhaul, and more in ensuing years. “It’s a significant investment.”
Schwan, a large supplier to school cafeterias, has committed to axing artificial colors by year’s end. It plans to eliminate artificial flavors — a more complex endeavor — by the close of 2017. By the end of 2016, Schwan’s goal is to eliminate corn syrup, which has been falling out of favor in recent years with some consumers, and is usually replaced by cane or beet sugar.
Also, Schwan plans to banish any remaining partially hydrogenated oils from its foods by the end of this year. Schwan’s, along with much of the food industry, several years ago removed most but not all of those oils, which harbor transfats.
Schwan is a privately held packaged food company with about 2,000 employees in its home state of Minnesota.
Product reformulations are tricky because consumers can balk at changes in taste or color.
For example, Schwan surveyed consumers on whether they’d go for its popular “Chips and Mint” ice cream without its signature green color, which comes from artificial dyes. The answer was “no,” so Schwan worked to create a suitable green hue from natural ingredients, including beta carotene and turmeric — not an easy task.
“Finding a color match is like finding a paint color in your home that you’ve lost the swatch to,” Fowler said.