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No sales boost for GMO-free Cheerios; General Mills 3Q profits fall

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There are no more genetically modified organisms in Cheerios – but General Mills hasn't seen a resulting sales bump.

According to the Associated Press, General Mills CEO Ken Powell says the company has received supportive comments online and in letter. But that hasn't translated to a jump in sales.

The company made the switch to GMO-free Cheerios after a big publich push from the nonprofit Green America. The group says consumers wrote 40,000 Facebook posts urging the company to drop GMOs. When General Mills announced early this year it was acquiescing, Green America Corporate Responsibility Director Todd Larsen called it "an important victory ... and an important first step for General Mills."

It might be the only step, too.

Last month, Forbes spoke with Powell amid rumblings of the GMO banishment having little impact on sales. When asked whether the company planned on reformulating any additional products to be GMO-free, Powell replied simply, "No," Forbes reported.

Forbes said it took more than a year for the company to find non-GMO alternatives for Cheerios.

General Mills spokesman Tom Forsythe called it a "sizable investment," Forbes reported.

“We did it because we think consumers may embrace it," he said. "It would be difficult, if not impossible, to do the same with our other products.”

Since the recipe shift, Cheerios has added a new label: "Not Made With Genetically Modified Ingredients." That designation isn't an official certification, however. The change only applies to regular Cheerios – not any of the offshoots, such as Apple Cinnamon (though after its success with the plan Cheerios, Green America is targeting the Honey Nut flavor as the next recipe it hopes to make GMO-free).

The AP story notes there is little scientific evidence food produced with GMOs is more dangerous than food produced without them. But questions about the long-term safety of a diet rife with GMOs have bubbled up recently.

The FDA says foods with GMOs have to meet the same safety requirements as those without, and both types have equal nutritional value.

The Golden Valley-based General Mills got bad financial news as well – third quarter profits fell, due to a lack of demand, bad weather, and the rising cost of yogurt, the Star Tribune reports.

The company posted net earnings of $410.6 million, 64 cents a share; analysts had forecast 68 cents a share for the period. Sales for the quarter reached $4.38 billion, 1 percent below what it was a year ago.

"This year’s severe winter weather dampened sales performance across the food industry, and third-quarter results for our U.S. Retail and Convenience Stores and Foodservice segments reflect that disruption," Powell says in a statement. "International segment results were stronger, with constant-currency sales gains in every region including double-digit growth in both Asia-Pacific and Latin America.”

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