A 2015 global Nielsen survey on healthy eating trends has found that consumers are increasingly seeking ‘fresh, natural and minimally processed foods’. In other words, they want to ensure that their food is free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms), contains all-natural ingredients, and has no artificial flavors or colors.
Dipping sales, and consumer-safety concerns, are the two main factors forcing major food players to change their cooking and ingredients, even tweaking some of their most successful recipes in order to make them healthier. That comes as good news for the discerning consumer.
Let’s take a look at how major brands have given their products a much-needed makeover:
1. Diet Pepsi
PepsiCo will be removing the artificial sweetener aspartame from their fast-selling product, Diet Pepsi. The company thinks the low-calorie sweetener is safe, even though it is sweeter than sucrose. Health conscious consumers don’t want it, mainly because the sweetener has become a controversial ingredient in recent years. Aspartame-free Diet Pepsi, Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi and Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi sweetened with a blend of sucralose and acesulfame potassium will begin replacing the current product, starting August.
2. Chipotle Mexican Grill
The fast-casual food chain has removed all ingredients made with GMOs from its current menu. They had committed to this is 2013, but have finally managed to ensure that their corn and flour tortillas are GMO-free. They have collaborated with suppliers to plant non-GMO corn varieties and to replace soybean oil in the chips and taco shells with non-GMO sunflower oil.
Fast food giant, McDonald’s had previously announced that they would begin using chickens raised without antibiotics. Over the next two years, the chain’s 14,000 restaurants in the US will move to a new antibiotics policy, which prohibits suppliers from using antibiotics critical to treating human illness. This is in response to concerns that the more antibiotic is given to food animals, the more quickly the bacteria could become resistant to it, eventually rendering the drug ineffective.
Nestlé USA announced that it will remove artificial flavors and colorings from all of its chocolate candy products by the end of 2015. This will affect more than 250 products and 10 brands, including Butterfinger, Nestlé Crunch and Baby Ruth. These dyes will be replaced with a natural coloring called annatto. Products that will appear on store shelves by mid-2015 will have “no artificial flavors or colors,” they claim.
Sandwich chain Subway will drop the additive azodicarbonamide from its fresh-baked breads. The additive is used by the commercial baking industry to bleach flour and to condition dough. The World Health Organization has linked it to asthma problems.
Kraft has decided to stop using two toxic yellow dyes in its macaroni and cheese products, effective January 2016. Yellow number 5 and yellow number 6 will be replaced by all-natural annatto and paprika.
The company behind the famous beer, Newcastle Brown Ale, will be removing the caramel coloring (containing the harmful chemical 4-methylimidazole), which gives the beer its distinctive brown tint. They will be using roasted malts, instead, to get the famous color.
The company is going to make some changes in their brands, including Hershey’s Kisses Milk Chocolates, and Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars. This move will focus on using ingredients that are simple and easy-to-understand, like fresh milk from local farms, roasted California almonds, cocoa beans and sugar, sharing product information about all that goes into them, and working with suppliers to responsibly source sustainable ingredients. Brookside Dark Chocolate Fruit & Nut Bars will feature a line-up of simple ingredients and will not have high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or colors, and will be gluten-free.