Jun 22, 2015 • By

A big commitment for Big G cereal

Our cereal team is always listening to consumers about how we can improve our cereals and make them better.

In recent years, we’ve heard that artificial ingredients aren’t what you are looking for in your bowl.

So today, we’ve announced that we are committing to remove artificial flavors and colors from artificial sources from the rest of General Mills cereals.

The work has been underway for several months – and we’ve actually been researching flavors and colors for several years – so we’re excited to break the news now.

The change affects roughly 40 percent of our cereals over the next two to three years. Currently, about 60 percent of our cereals already are free of artificial flavors or colors from artificial sources and have been that way for several years.

We are aiming for 75 percent by January – including Reese’s Puffs and Trix – and 90 percent by the end of 2016, giving our product developers time to make sure they look and taste great.


Each cereal requires different changes. Cereals that contain marshmallows, like Lucky Charms and our Monster cereals, are the biggest challenge and may take longer to complete the changes.

“We’re simply listening to consumers and these ingredients are not what people are looking for in their cereal today,” says Jim Murphy, president of our Cereal division.

Jim says the goal is to match the taste that consumers love, with little to no visible change to the color for most of the cereals we’re reformulating. Some, like Trix, will look a bit different as we remove colors from artificial sources.


(Watch the story reported by ABC’s Good Morning America)

An artificial source is where the ingredient is derived from something other than a plant, spice or another substance found in nature. For cereals like Trix, we will be using fruit and vegetable juice and spice extracts for color. In Reese’s Puffs, we will use flavors like natural vanilla.

“With our consumers, it reached a tipping point in the last couple of years with the trend toward simpler food,” says Jim. “I remember the meeting where we all looked at each other and said ‘We’re just done with these, we’re going to do the whole line.’”


“This is about removing barriers to cereal,” says Lauren Pradhan, senior marketing manager for wellness strategy in the Cereal division. “People have told us they don’t want dyes in their cereal.”

The project picked up momentum over the last year as we worked closely with suppliers to find the right ingredients.

“It was just all hands on deck, and the team has done an incredible job of saying ‘We’re going to make this happen,’” Lauren says.

“It takes a lot of time,” says Kate Gallager, research and development manager for Cereal. “Part of it is that the sources weren’t readily available on the scale we needed them to be, or at the consistency we needed them to be.”

Kate’s team has been testing numerous versions of our cereals. We’ve also had consumers try the cereals, adults and children, to let us know their thoughts.
“We’ve been working relentlessly to make sure these cereals still taste like what people are used to eating,” she says.

Eating and testing bowl by bowl, after only slight tweaks to the recipes, the team is finding the ideal color and taste for each brand.

“If you are just looking at the flavor, and not changing the color at the same time, it’s a bit more straightforward,” says Kate.

But any changes in the color have interactions with the flavor.

“In the case of Trix, we looked at a wide range of fruits, vegetables and spices in different combinations trying to get the desired color,” Kate says. “But we also worked to make a cereal that would not impart extra flavors that we weren’t looking for. Where we’ve landed, is using a pretty broad array of fruit and vegetable concentrates to make up those red and purple colors.”

“It’s about making cereal that tastes great and still delivers on what it was before we made the changes, or make it even better,” says Kate.


Jim says employees across General Mills are excited about these changes. And he’s proud of all the employees who are touching the project.

“We have great people working on it,” Jim says. “You can tell when you have a good idea, when people are working real hard and they’re passionate about it. I couldn’t be more proud to be the leader of the people leading this and watching everyone just make it work.”

“It makes me feel good that we are listening and responding in a culture of making food with passion,” Lauren says. “We are passionately doing this and we are figuring this out to make this happen and challenging the way we always did things, and keeping the consumer first in everything that we do.”

When the changes to each cereal brand are made, you will see them reflected on the ingredient list and, in some cases, called out on the front of the box.

“I just couldn’t be more proud of our team,” Lauren says. “We’re not only marketers, food scientists and operations folks, but we’re also moms and dads, and aunts and uncles. And our family members are asking us about these types of things with cereal, so the fact that we can now go to them and say ‘We’ve heard you, we’re doing this for you’ gives us all a lot of pride.”

“This is about giving people food that they love,” says Jim. “We are continually innovating and renovating our products to ensure we’re meeting consumer expectations,” says Jim.

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  • Danielle-Brian Moore-Dickson

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for the commitment to our children’s health! Red Dye is such a problem in our family and this makes our life alot easier.

  • Heather Winkler

    Way to go. Can we also expect that you will be getting rid of GMO’s?

    • Kevin Hunt

      Hi Heather,

      Thanks for reading our blog. Currently, Original Cheerios cereal is not made with genetically modified ingredients. We also offer non-GM product choices in most of our major categories in the U.S., including many organic cereals under the Cascadian Farm brand.

      Kevin Hunt
      General Mills

      • Heather Winkler

        That is wonderful news. Thanks for taking the time to reply @GeneralMills_Kevin:disqus. I knew some of the Cascadian Farm cereals didn’t but I had no idea about original Cheerios. Thanks!

  • Angela McBain

    My son with food dye allergies cried with joy when we just saw this on the news. He says THANK YOU!!!!!

  • Kristen Redfearn Sawyer

    There simply aren’t words sufficient enough to express my gratitude. I suffer from a severe allergy to artificial colors and I’m really looking forward to trying the new cereals.

  • momma

    Awesome, awesome, awesome. I banned artificial colors from our house a year or so ago, and the kids have been sad to lose Trix. Now I can get them again!! So happy. Here’s hoping many, many more companies get with the program. YUK artificial colors!

  • Steve Pringle

    Why is this so important? I cannot see any health benefit to removing artificial flavors. Surely this is just a marketing ploy to pretend that you have improved the health benefit of your food

    • Danielle Robertson

      I agree that the food science is missing from these conversations. This article does address, to a small degree, the challenges with making the swap to natural, but there’s much more to it. Also announcements and commitments like these make it seem like there was automatically something that was wrong with the way it was before. This may be true, but if you’re interested in the main pros and cons of natural vs artificial, I would love your feedback on this article I wrote about the food science behind the ingredients Panera said they are removing:

      • Steve Pringle

        I can really only talk about the natural vs artificial flavors segment, but this is an excellent post and one which, along with the links (especially the scientific American link) provide excellent information as to why switching from artificial flavors to natural is like putting wheels on a dog…time consuming, expensive, and pointless.
        I’m making an assumption that this move by General Mills is prompted by the same consumer pressure reasons as Panera Bread, Taco Bell, McDonalds, Kraft, etc. Perhaps all of these companies should use their PR to educate the consumer, rather than pander to their lack of knowledge.
        We’d all be better off if the general public had a higher level of scientific literacy

        • Danielle Robertson

          Thank you, and agreed! This consumer pressure is fascinating to me, “The consumer has a louder voice now than during any time in history.
          Thanks to factors such as (but not limited to) social media, food
          bloggers, food trucks, and the uptick in online supplement sales,
          consumers have more choices, and more power. With this power, one fad or
          concern becomes a business mandate faster than you can say, “General
          Mills Gluten Free Cheerios”. Not all of the consumer-driven formulation
          changes are bad or scientifically-unfounded, but every re-formulation
          brings consequences.” – excerpt from

          • Steve Pringle

            Its also interesting that there is no response from General Mills to the question of why they are removing these ingredients.
            If they cant show with careful, reasoned thought and evidence that the ingredients are detrimental, then in my mind this is just another way to leverage the consumer’s lack of knowledge to their own advantage

          • Kevin Hunt

            Hi Steve,

            Thanks for reading our blog post and leaving a comment. This change was not about safety or health concerns, all colors or flavors we use are approved by global food safety agencies. We are listening to our consumers and these ingredients are not what people are looking for in their cereal today.

            Kevin Hunt
            General Mills

          • Steve Pringle

            This is where you and I disagree. The incorrect perception of the public is that artificial = unhealthy and natural = healthy. By making this change GM are simply reinforcing that incorrect perception. Surely GM would be better served educating its customers, rather than taking their current course of action and making them think they are getting healthier products by removing artificial flavors, when the reality is they are not.

          • Kevin Hunt

            I’ll share your comments with the Cereal team, thanks again.

            Kevin Hunt
            General Mills

          • Stephanie Castruita

            Well I disagree with your perception as well. The fact that anytime my son has any type of dye and almost every type of artificial flavoring we end up in the emergency room is not because it is good for him. I have been writing letters to American companies for the past 5 years requesting these changes and they are finally happening little by little. Other countries have been on top of the artificial game for YEARS now, it is America that is truly and shamefully behind on health, with children specifically. It is true that sugar filled cereals are not exactly healthy but they are that much more better for you without the artificial crap in them. If you think fake ingredients (man made in a lab) gong into your body is better than an all natural product then you are surely distorted in your “views” and I might reevaluate your educational level.

          • Stephanie Castruita

            Well from a person who is allergic to red dye and whose children have horrible reactions to dyes and many artificial flavors as well as preservatives I commend your company for your effort. This has been the norm in Europe for quite some time and I’ve always been quite upset that my own country could not offer the same for no good reason. There is good reasoning behind removing those things from foods and there is no GOOD reason they were there in the first place, which is just perplexing as to why it was used in the first place. its not a perfect fix in the least but it is definitely a step in the right direction. I’m really excited to finally be able to buy my children something that will not put us in the emergency room or bed ridden for the next 2-3 days!!!! So THANK YOU for finally getting the message and listening to your customers! The only thing I can say is I am grateful for the progress and keep making forward advances to your products and KEEP LISTENING to us. In the end the consumer tells you what they want and will not buy form you if you do not supply what they demand, but you obviiously get that (hence the change.). Thank you a thousand times over. You have no idea the smiles you put on my children’s faces when they saw your commercial. Of course its still a sugary filled cereal (which makes me cringe), but its okay to have on the weekend once in a while.

          • Danielle Robertson

            Yeah, I’m sure that’s an internally debated question too. I can only imagine (in fact, working for a major supplement company, I don’t have to imagine) the internal pull between wanting to keep your consumer happy and wanting to make the best product, food science-wise. Not to sound crass but sometimes the biggest business risk is not the safety of an ingredient, but the consumer backlash (unfounded or not — both are equally powerful) over which ingredients are used in a product. If you look at the way the big food companies are falling apart (Gen Mills, Kraft/Heinz/Mondelez etc), I’m sure there’s plenty of people responsible for salvaging the business (and jobs), and if finding a way to keep your consumers loyal to your brand requires an ingredient revolution, it’s a really tough call.

          • CJ

            To some segments of the population, these artifical colors are detrimental. As a person with artificial food color sensitivities/intolerances, I find it refreshing that the food industry is entertaining the removal of an unnecessary additive that threatens my well being, quality of life and ability to perform my job. Just this past week I was unfortunate enough to be blind sided by artificial coloring just by trying to get a meal while traveling for work. Because green isn’t “green” enough, unknown to me at the time, my garnish of sea weed salad at a local sushi bar means enduring roughly 2 wks of mental fogginess, diminished coordination and visual acuity.

            Sadly, I can fall victim to this reaction in such unlikely and unsuspecting places as a pickle on a burger, a rice Krispy treat due to the marshmallows, a fruit and cereal bar, a blended juice drink, cough medicine, bread…the list goes on. And the worst part is that the artificial coloring is totally unnecessary.

          • Stephanie Castruita

            I completely agree with you and share your ailments, so do my children! We were so stoked at this announcement. My son has always wanted to try Lucky Charms but he was not willing to chance yet another debilitating migraine that lands us in the ER to replenish his fluid/electrolyte balance, including a bolus of phenergan to stop the vomiting and 3 days in bed recovering. And both my kids suffering from symptoms of ADHD with every artificial color or preservative in their food, which takes a week or more to regulate out of their systems. And for no other reason than aesthetics? Every other country demands it of companies, but not the great old USA. The people are finally wising up a bit, slowly but surely.

  • Michael Steele

    Nice job. You just lost 5 more customers.

  • Danielle Robertson

    Could you do another YouTube video and show us some of the most difficult hurdles your team faced? As a food scientist, I know that some natural colors can change with pH or impart off-notes (i.e. “now everything tastes like beets”), and some colors can fade quickly due to oxidation. I think it would be great to talk about how natural colors are JUST NOW starting to become reliable replacements (like how James Cameron waited for technology to advance before making Avitar). I’ve delved into the pros and cons of swapping artificial with natural on my blog, but I would love to see more companies making these swaps really take the credit they deserve for taking on these food science challenges.

    • Kevin Hunt

      I’ll pass that idea along, Danielle. Thanks for reading our blog.

      Kevin Hunt
      General Mills

      • Danielle Robertson

        Wonderful! Yay for food science!!! 😀

        • gregmn

 — Cheerios… not GMOats?

          Dear GM,

          We just bought a double pack of Cheerios after seeing the notice “not made with GMZo ingredients*”. Now at my breakfast table, I am observing the asterisk fine print, and wondering what percentage you define as “Trace”?

          Does that “trace” percent mean contamination in production manufacturing, or in the fields, or during shipping to your plants?

          What is the source of the Corn Starch and Sugar in your product, and how do you assure the also are GMO-free?

          Under “Nutrition Facts”, I notice the entries for Fat are the same (3%) for the Cheerios product alone as with 1/2 cup skim milk. Also, the amount of Sugar is shown as 1g for the adult 1cup serving as it is for children under 4. How do you account for these discrepancies?

          Add “soluble fiber” of 1g and 0g ( for 3/4 cup serving)?

          So much for my breakfast readings. I grew up with nearly daily breakfast of Cheerios, but gave them up for a spell when non-GMOs arrived. After reading the fine print I will put these boxes in the far pantry shelf until I hear from you. My son had a bowl this morning and seemed to like them as much as I did. No huge sugar loads like most cereals! Natural colors are good too. thanks

          I will be reluctant to buy another box unless I see the “NON GMO Project VERIFIED” logo on your packages. Please tell me why, if your products really are “Not made with GMO ingredients”, that you choose not to display the logo?

          greg m – PO Box 576, Foley, MN. 56329-0576

          • Danielle Robertson

            I have an answer for the GMO Trace question — GMO regulations world-wide are different in how far up the food chain they go. For example, if vitamin D comes from sheep’s wool (lanolin), some regulations would require the supplier to know that the food that sheep ate was non-GM, even though the lanolin itself came from the wool instead of from microbial fermentation. This article goes more in-depth with the discussion, and I truly hope you’ll find it helpful since you seem like an educated consumer who cares about the details.

  • Scout211

    What about BHT, which is in all of General Mills cereals? Are there plans to remove this unnecessary chemical as well?

    • Kevin Hunt


      We’ve been in the process of removing removing it from our cereals for more than a year. If you’re looking for an option without BHT right now, many of our cereals do not contain it, including Cheerios, Kix, Lucky Charms, Reese’s Puffs and Fiber One.

      Kevin Hunt
      General Mills

      • Scout211

        Thank you for your reply, Kevin. We are Chex fans and are waiting eagerly for BHT to be removed!

  • Kathryn Hill

    Awesome! What about the GMOs? Are those going to go away also?

    • Steve Pringle

      Why do you want to get rid of GMO’s?

    • Kevin Hunt

      Hi Kathryn,

      There is broad consensus among major global scientific and regulatory bodies that approved genetically modified foods are safe. We also understand that some consumers may embrace certain products made without the use of GM ingredients. General Mills already offers non-GM product choices in most of our major categories in the U.S., including many organic cereals under the Cascadian Farm brand – as well as original Cheerios. Thanks for reading our blog.

      Kevin Hunt
      General Mills

  • Lezley Mount

    How about getting rid of the BHT in your packaging? I will buy other more expensive brands that don’t have it in it. The cereals taste just as “fresh” without it.

    • Kevin Hunt

      Hi Lezley,

      Many of our cereals do not contain it right now, including Cheerios, Kix, Lucky Charms, Reese’s Puffs and Fiber One. We’ve been in the process of removing it from our cereals for more than a year.

      Kevin Hunt
      General Mills

  • Brandon Marquez

    This seems like a great idea, that makes Trix taste so much better! Could you guys be able to do the same thing with Cookie Crisp, You know, make it taste more like different cookies? And a new commercial idea would be nice too.

  • Sympathizer

    Is there a way to put MORE marshmallow bits in Lucky Charms? Kinda like how Oreo double-stuff and triple stuff their cookies?! I know General Mills is trying to be more “health conscious” and all, but there are some people who don’t care about GMO, artificial ingredients, extra sugar, preservatives still.

  • Jan Doebler

    Why can I no longer find the “Fiber One Raisin Crunch”. anywhere in the grocery stores? The only thing available is Original, Sticks, and the Protein.

  • xqsmebut

    Why mini trix? Bring back normal size please no matter what colorings you use.

  • Jan

    I would love to see you become the leader in NOT using any GMO in your products. At the very least, label. thanks for your efforts to change for the healthier!

    • dottie82

      That is true Jan. When other companies see that General Mills is stepping up their game and making all of the money off of cereal because they are listening to the consumer, they just might join in.

  • Kala

    I’d prefer my “Cinnamon Toast Crunch” commercials without the pelvic thrust dancing.
    We have little children out here.

  • dottie82

    I would like to know that also.