- General Mills is bringing back the classic Trix cereal, artificial colors and all, according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal. According to the company, consumers complained about its healthier update, with some calling the natural colors depressing.
- General Mills reformulated Trix and six other cereals in 2016 as part of its pledge to remove artificial colors and flavors from all of its cereal brands.
- Both the original and more wholesome versions will be sold in the fall. When removing the artificial colors and flavors, food scientists were not able to duplicate the bright red and neon blue and green colors with fruit and vegetable juices. In addition to the more subdued color, the natural colors changed the flavor of the cereal.
So much for consumer demand to get rid of artificial colors. It turns out eliminating Red 40, Blue 1 and Yellow 6 is a priority only if a manufacturer can perfectly duplicate a recipe without them.
Removing artificial colors has been one of the recent trends in food manufacturing. General Mills got on board in 2015, committing to remove artificial colors and flavors from all cereals. They had good reason to do so. In 2016, more than 60% of U.S. consumers said they considered whether a product contained artificial colors when making purchases. But it turns out what consumers say in a survey they want and what they actually buy don’t quite line up.
General Mills will likely take some heat for bringing back their classic Trix, especially after their pledge to remove all artificial colors and flavors from its cereals. While sales did get a 6% boost in early 2016, there must have been enough consumer backlash to warrant the potential PR risk associate with bringing back the unpopular ingredients. In the end, they’re a food manufacturer. They’re in the business of giving consumers what they want, not what is necessarily nutritionally best for them. And in the company's latest earnings report, which came out this week, sales of cereal in the U.S. had dropped 7% compared to a year ago. The report doesn't break down cereal sales by the brand, but according to a transcript of the earnings call, CEO Jeff Harmening pointed out strong growth numbers behind less-than-healthy breakfast options Lucky Charms — which grew 15% in the quarter with an all-marshmallows promotion — and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
The WSJ interviewed a number of adults who were disappointed with the new Trix cereal. Only one cited her children’s reaction as the reason she wants the old cereal brought back. At its heart, Trix is marketed as a kid’s cereal — hence the advertising tag line “Silly rabbit! Trix are for kids!" The updated all-natural color cereal is undoubtedly healthier for that target audience. It's also the type of product that label-conscious parents are more likely to buy for their children. But adult fans of sugary cereals aren’t having it.
General Mills is learning a valuable lesson in this process. The company is delaying launching all-natural versions of other brightly colored cereals like Lucky Charms until they get the recipes just right. Representatives also told The Wall Street Journal that they’re not planning to bring back artificially colored versions of other cereals they've reformulated, like Fruity Cheerios, because they haven’t received as many consumer complaints.