General Mills to Remove Artificial Colors From Fruit Snacks

MINNEAPOLIS (Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS) -

General Mills will remove artificial colors and flavors from its Fruit Snacks by the end of 2017. The Fruit Snacks line includes items such as Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Gushers and Fruit Roll-Ups.

The move comes two months after General Mills announced it would phase out artificial colors and flavors in cereal, its biggest U.S. product line.

Axing artificial colors and flavors is part of a food-industry trend toward “cleaner” labels free of ingredients that aren’t natural, or don’t look that way. Consumers are showing an increasing wariness over processed food, a negative for packaged-food sales.

“We’re really doing this because we’ve heard from families who say this will make the products better,” said Jacquie Klein, a senior marketing manager. In a marketing study last year, General Mills found that more than 50 percent of current and lapsed fruit snack consumers would more likely buy the product if it didn’t have artificial colors and flavors.

The company will replace artificial dyes with fruit and vegetable juices, Klein said. Fruit Snacks are primarily made with fruit juice concentrate — usually pear or apple — and sugar or corn syrup.

Reformulations are risky, because they can be expensive and turn off customers if not done right. But re-engineering fruit snacks won’t be as complicated as swapping out artificial colors and flavors in cereal. “We know we can make this work,” Klein said.

General Mills says its fruit snacks capture about 45 percent of the U.S. market for such products. The company doesn’t break out sales for the product, but said they have been relatively flat.

The Fruit Snacks line accounts for about 80 percent of General Mills’ fruit snacks portfolio, which also includes products under the Mott’s and Fiber One brands. Snacks made under those brands already contain no artificial flavors and ingredients.