Favorite Kids’ Cereals to Drop Artificial Colors and Flavors

Silly rabbit, artificial ingredients are for other cereals.

General Mills' Lucky Charms. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Jun 22, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Ali Swenson is an editorial intern at TakePart. She is editor-in-chief of Loyola Marymount University’s news outlet, the Los Angeles Loyolan, and has worked in nonprofit media.

General Mills will remove artificial flavors and colors from its entire cereal line by the end of 2017, the Minneapolis-based food giant announced Monday.

The commitment to go all-natural—already made this year by Nestlé, Taco Bell, 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.”

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

So, Why Should You Care? It may seem like a small victory, but when consumers demand better transparency and quality in food, they can make a difference. It’s in the best interest of every brand to do a better job catering to savvy consumers, who vote with their wallets.

How can you expect your morning bowl of cereal to change in the next two years? If you’re a fan of Trix or Reese’s Puffs, you should see a shift by January—the products have already been tested for alternatives to synthetic additives.

In Trix, the wildly colorful puffed cereal with a rabbit who openly fiends for it, fruit and vegetable juice and turmeric and annatto extracts will replace dyes like Red No. 40 and Yellow No. 6. The Food and Drug Administration has long approved artificial food dyes for consumption and regulated their use, prohibiting dyes found to be carcinogenic and otherwise dangerous. Still, advocacy groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest have publicized research about the potential harm of additives and lauded companies that have made their labels more transparent.

Product developers at General Mills struggled to find a natural match for the Trix’s blue and green bites, so the brand is ditching those colors altogether. 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.

Though many big brands are nixing artificial ingredients, “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean safe—or healthy. So even though Trix’s “lemony lemon” color will soon be sourced from turmeric, the cereal is still laden with sugar.