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General Mills nixing artificial colors and flavors from cereals

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General Mills is working toward removing artificial colors and flavors from its cereals.

In a blog post published Monday morning, Jim Murphy – president of General Mills' cereal division – says the company is "simply listening to consumers and these ingredients are not what people are looking for in their cereal today.”

That means the dyes traditionally seen in cereals, especially the colorful ones, will be gone.

According to the release, the change will affect about 40 percent of its cereals (the remaining 60 percent are already free from artificial flavors or colors from artificial sources). The company hopes to push that number to 75 percent by January, and 90 percent by the end of 2016.

The Golden Valley-based food giant is in the midst of a transformation – a reaction to changing consumer tastes that emphasizes natural ingredients – that has resulted in hundreds of job losses at the company. In March, General Mills announced its profits fell 16 percent in the most recent quarter.

Colors could look a bit different

The company says doing this for some cereals will be easier than others, and they're hoping to minimize the change in appearance and taste as the new recipes roll out.

It hopes to have Reese's Puffs and Trix ready to go by the start of next year. Both have a slight change to the color palette.

For cereals such as Trix, General Mills will shift to using fruit and vegetable juice and spice extracts.

“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 Gallager, research and development manager, says in the news release. “But we also worked to make a cereal that would not impart extra flavors that we weren’t looking for. "

In Reese’s Puffs, flavors such as natural vanilla have been adopted.

Cereals with marshmallows (Lucky Charms and the monster cereals such as Count Chocula for example) are the "biggest challenge," the company says, and could take longer to finish.

Consumers veer toward natural

A Gallup poll shows Americans are trying to eat healthier. The poll shows about half of respondents say they’re trying to include organic food in their diet, while 90 percent are trying to include more fruits and vegetables.

A recent Nielsen report shows that the number of consumers checking labels has increased in the last eight years, which is leading them to choose healthier options at the grocery store.

To keep up with the demand for healthier options, General Mills has tweaked some of its products – it’s added protein to its Cheerios, took aspartame out of its Yoplait Light yogurt, made the cinnamon taste in Cinnamon Toast Crunch stronger and increased its gluten-free offerings.

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