General Mills is manufacturing baking mixes and frozen baked goods with no artificial flavors or colors for its Gold Medal and Pillsbury brands. The reformulated products will help bakeries, restaurants and food service operators meet consumer demand for clean label foods made with simpler ingredients, the Minneapolis-based company said in a statement.
The portfolio of clean label products started rolling out in November and includes Gold Medal Biscuit, Griddle and Bread mixes. General Mills also said it is repackaging its clean label Gold Medal products with updated graphics, photography and easier-to-read instructions.
“We are always looking at ways to improve our products to meet the changing needs and preferences of today’s consumers,” Michael Braden, senior culinary manager for General Mills Foodservice, said in a release. “General Mills is proud to offer a robust portfolio of baking products with a cleaner profile so our operators can feel even better about using these beloved products they already know and trust.”
Reformulating baking mixes and frozen baked goods is not easy or cheap — regardless of whether an ingredient is being taken out or added in. There's a reason why artificial flavors and colors were put in, although clearly General Mills has identified better reasons to remove them — with increasing customer demand for healthier products probably at the top of the list.
It's safe to say nearly all big-name CPG companies are improving their existing roster of brands or introducing new products to include a simpler roster of better-for-you ingredients that people recognize. Hershey, Campbell Soup and Nestle are among the others companies replacing artificial colors and flavors with natural ones.
Food companies improved the health profile of about 180,000 products in 2016, an increase of more than 100,000 items from the prior year, according to the Consumer Goods Forum, a global network of more than 400 retailers and manufacturers.
As more consumers look for simpler ingredients, it's no surprise that General Mills decided to clean up its Gold Medal and Pillsbury baking mixes and frozen baked goods. Otherwise, more consumers would likely have gone elsewhere for a different brand that did. Another benefit is that shoppers are willing to pay more for these items, giving manufacturers another incentive to change the product.
One caveat in the whole clean label push is that overhauling the ingredients list isn't enough. The trick is removing them without altering the appearance, texture or taste that people love. It also could lead to unexpected changes such as reduced product volume and shelf life because of increasing staling and mold growth — potentially leading to higher costs that the company must decide whether to pass on to the consumer. Companies need to make sure they get all these things right before they go to the market with their reformulated product.
Michael Braden, senior culinary manager for General Mills Foodservice, said each product has undergone rigorous testing to ensure it has the preparation, performance and quality people expect.
“General Mills understands the important role these products play in helping our customers in their own operations,” said Braden. “We have made every effort to ensure our new baking portfolio matches the quality products that they have come to love and are confident the products will continue to deliver great-tasting, consistent results."
For a major food manufacturer, the key to success seems to be keeping customers informed about what it's doing with product reformulations and why. Acceptance at retail — or through bakery, restaurant or food service operations — is more likely to be forthcoming as a result. One other thing appears certain, at least for now, is that today's big food makers won't be able to ignore the clean label trend anytime soon.
“You’ll see a lot of these companies slowly but surely build out their better-for-you products,” Brittany Weissman, an analyst at Edward Jones, recently told Food Dive. “The thing that’s most important is that whatever these investments are, that they do communicate them to the consumer, because what’s the point of reformulating these products if it doesn’t happen?”