Aug 09, 2011 • By

Improving the health profile of products

Improving nutrition in food is a hot topic in the food industry. The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently gave its readers an inside look at how General Mills (along with other food companies) is improving the health profile of our products while maintaining the great taste consumers have come to love and expect from our brands.

For his article “Food makers face the big squeeze,” published Sunday, business reporter Mike Hughlett sat down with several General Mills executives to talk about our broad and deep commitment to nutrition, our progress in improving the health profile of our products, and the technical challenges food companies must overcome to achieve both good nutrition and great taste.

Hughlett wrote:

Regulators, nutritionists, even the first lady, say Americans need healthier choices amid an epidemic of obesity. They expect food producers to provide them, particularly by lowering sodium and sugar… …Golden Valley-based General Mills, a cereal giant and the nation’s third-largest packaged foodmaker, has been working over the past six years to improve the healthiness of its products.

Hughlett wrote about our efforts to reduce sodium in vegetables and soup, and sugar in cereal.

I had the opportunity to listen to General Mills leaders discuss our commitment to healthful eating throughout these interviews.

Our commitment to health and nutrition

Suzie Crockett, head of the General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition, talked with Hughlett about how General Mills has led the way on improvements such as reducing sugar in cereals, reducing sodium in soups and snacks, and reducing trans fat across our portfolio. This is and has been a major area of focus for us.

Passing the triangle test

John Mendesh, vice president of research and development for General Mills’ Big G cereals, walked Hughlett through a cereal taste test.

He put the reporter’s taste buds through a “triangle” test of three cereal samples, two that had been reformulated to have less sugar and one that had not been reformulated. The objective was to see if he could tell which cereal sample had more sugar.

As we reduce sugar and sodium in our cereals, we don’t want the change to be noticeable to consumers. We want them to enjoy the same great taste they know and trust even as we reduce the sugar and sodium. However, it’s not easy. Sugar and sodium reductions are technically difficult because both ingredients play multiple roles in our recipes.

Hughlett gave our triangle test his best attempt, but could not tell which cereal had been reformulated, which is exactly what we strive for with consumers.

Our progress

General Mills’ progress in reducing sugar in cereal was the main focus of the General Mills portion of the article. We were eager to share our story, since we are proud of our progress and excited about the direction we’re heading.

General Mills continues to work aggressively to reduce sugar in cereals advertised to children under the age of 12. As of December 2010, all of General Mills’ Big G cereals advertised to children have 10 grams of sugar or less per serving, and the company has committed to further reduce sugar until single-digit levels are reached on all cereals advertised to children under 12.

To ensure the cereals continue to taste great, reductions will progress in a series of small steps.

We are committed to improving the health profile of our products while maintaining the great taste consumers love and while keeping products affordable.

Editor’s note: For more information on our commitment to improving the health profile of our products, read our 2011 Corporate Social Responsibility report. For more information on the benefits of cereal, visit this site.