Small step…but in a very awesome direction

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General Mills announced on Monday that they will remove artificial flavors and colors from their entire cereal line by the end of 2017.

The commitment to go all-natural—already made this year by Nestlé, Taco Bell, Panera, Hershey and Pizza Hut—is a response to consumers who favor simple food and ingredient transparency, according to Jim Murphy, president of General Mills’ cereal division.

“People eat with their eyes,” said Murphy in a video released Monday. “The trick is, How can we maintain an appealing look, just not using the artificial colors? People don’t want colors with numbers in their food anymore.”

60 percent of General Mills cereals—including Cheerios, Wheaties, and Kix—are already free of artificial ingredients, and the company will target the remaining 40 percent over the next two years, using fruit and vegetable juices and spice extracts such as turmeric to mimic the vibrant colors and flavors cereals such as Trix and Lucky Charms are known for.

While this may seem like a very small step, it shows how much power we have as consumers to exert influence through our buying choices. As savvy and health conscious consumers, we can demand healthier, higher-quality food.

All-natural Trix and Reese’s Puffs should debut in January as they have already been tested for alternatives to synthetic additives.

In Trix, fruit and vegetable juice and turmeric and annatto extracts will replace dyes like Red No. 40 and Yellow No. 6.

Product developers at General Mills struggled to find a natural match for the Trix’s blue and green bites, so the brand is discontinuing those colors. The new Reese’s Puffs will see a more modest change—the use of real vanilla rather than artificial.

Natural solutions may take longer to develop for marshmallow cereals like Lucky Charms, but the company hopes to have 90 percent of its cereals free of artificial ingredients by the end of 2016 and the whole line by late 2017.

It is a relief to see many big brands nixing artificial ingredients, but it is important to keep in mind that they are not nixing sugar! In this case “natural” does not necessarily equate safe or healthy. Well, one step at a time.

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“Small step…but in a very awesome direction”