Food companies, including Campbell Soup and General Mills, allowed cameras in to document first-hand how they are developing safer and healthier foods and flavors and reducing added sugars. In Raw Ingredients, CNN Money reviews the overall food industry, focusing on the areas of salad, fish, meat and cereal.
The featured manufacturers are leading the food industry from the inside out, in an industry that is often slow to change — but change is necessary. Over the last five years, the top 25 U.S. food and beverage companies lost $18 billion in market share, reports Fortune.
This week, the General Mills Cereal Division announced on its blog a milestone where 75% of its cereals no longer include colors from artificial sources or artificial flavors, as well as no high fructose corn syrup.
In Raw Ingredients, from a test lab in Minneapolis, Gallager showed reporter Cristina Alescia how the company reformulated the colors in Trix cereal with natural sources, such as using carrots and radishes for the color red. Gallager said in a blog post she wants to revisit and test options for reviving the green and blue colors for their cereals, which have been removed at this point.
In its research for natural ingredients, the company investigated at least 69 colors and 86 flavors; conducted 98 tastings; completed approximately 301 recipe experiments; and spent nearly 140 hours listening to consumers.
Another ingredient consumers want to see less of is sugar, and food companies continue to respond. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that no more than 10% of daily calories should come from added sugars.
In Raw Ingredients, Jim Murphy, president of Big G Cereals, General Mills, discussed the company’s move to gradually reduce the amount of sugar per serving to 9 milligrams. He told Alescia that "consumers would like to have a lot of things but they don’t want to give up taste and certainly that is the challenge for us." He added the company will continue its efforts to make its cereals healthier because "it is the right thing to do from a health standpoint and because people do get too much sugar in the U.S."
Manufacturers continue to respond in big ways
Alescia told Food Dive she found food manufacturers are very much committed to responding to consumers who want better food and more transparency as to where their food is sourced. "I think the industry is doing what it can," she said.
The food industry is making progress. Between 2002 and 2013, food companies released more than 30,000 new product choices with fewer calories, reduced fat, sodium and sugar, and more whole grains, according to a 2014 survey from the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
In December 2015, in an effort to be transparent, major food companies such as General Mills and Campbell Soup Co. joined consumer products companies in announcing SmartLabel technology where consumers use their smartphones to scan barcodes or conduct online searches on ingredients and other information. The effort was driven by manufacturers and retailers.
These efforts assist in changing consumer perceptions of the food industry. Alescia has reported on many industries and finds it can be difficult for entrenched industries to fundamentally remake themselves and start from scratch. One of the common ways larger food companies have responded to changing consumer tastes is to buy smaller companies, and allow those smaller divisions to make changes. "Campbell’s acquired Bolthouse Farms, which is now Campbell’s Fresh," Alescia said. The Campbell’s division consists of Bolthouse Farms fresh carrots, beverages and salad dressings, combined with Campbell’s refrigerated soup business.
Although Raw Ingredients was put together in response to CNN Money viewers and readers’ requests to report more on food and the food industry, in interviewing food companies, Alescia believes most companies are focused on meeting consumers’ wishes. She adds that companies can find themselves at odds with profitability and efficiency, which is the challenge.