Feb 19, 2015 • By

Committed to health and wellness

For many years, General Mills has been working to improve the health credentials of our products. Ten years ago, we established our “Health Metric” to encourage progress on nutrition and health improvements.

These improvements include enhancing positive nutrition such as increasing protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and reducing limiters such as calories, sodium, sugar and fat.

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Over the past 10 years we’ve improved the health profile of 76 percent of our U.S. Retail sales volume.

With all health improvements, our guiding principal is always taste since we know that food isn’t nutritious unless people actually choose to eat it.

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Sodium is one area where our efforts have been significant.

In 2010, we announced industry-leading plans to reduce sodium by 20 percent across multiple product categories. We committed to doing this over the period of several years using small, incremental steps to introduce the changes gradually giving people time to adapt their palates to the lower sodium – sometimes we call this approach “stealth health.”

As we continue to work toward this goal, we’ve found that if changes are introduced too quickly, people either add their own table salt or simply stop buying the product altogether.

We are careful with each reduction to conduct consumer research to ensure that the reduced sodium version is just as well-liked as the previous version.

Again, it’s the slow and steady reductions that allow us to continue making progress without people feeling as if there is a taste trade-off.

Following are some examples of our sodium reduction progress:

Progresso

In 2013, Progresso introduced a new Heart Healthy soup line that incorporates elements of the earlier High Fiber and Reduced Sodium Progresso lines – with some added spices to enhance the flavor.

In all, there are 10 Heart Healthy soups that are reduced sodium (480 mg or less). Progresso Heart Healthy soups are about 25 percent less sodium than traditional Progresso soups. In total, 45 currently available Progresso soups have undergone sodium reductions of between 10 percent and 44 percent in the last decade.

Shelf stable vegetables

More than 40 Green Giant and LeSueur shelf stable vegetable stock keeping units (SKUs) including corn, green beans, asparagus, and mushrooms have been reformulated to achieve sodium reductions of between 10 and 30 percent. This represents the majority of our shelf stable vegetables. This was achieved through gradual reductions over time.

Helper dinners

Between fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2014, approximately 30 Helper varieties out of approximately 45 underwent sodium reductions of between 10 and 44 percent per serving (as prepared). We achieved the reductions while keeping the bold flavor, in part by enhancing flavors and spices such as garlic, onion, tomato, spices and herbs.

Refrigerated biscuits

In 2014, sodium reductions were made to many of our refrigerated biscuit products.  More than 20 varieties underwent sodium reductions of between 10 and 22 percent – including our popular Pillsbury Grands! biscuits.

Chex Mix

Since 2008, we have reduced sodium across our Chex Mix line on average by 47 percent.  We’ve been doing this in a few ways, including product reformulations, introduction of new products with less sodium, and optimizing the seasoning blends to find the best balance while maintaining taste. For example, the sodium in one of our top selling Chex Mix products, Traditional, was reduced by nearly 40 percent over this period of time.

As we continue to track our health improvement progress, we will share further updates.

Sodium reductions can be technically difficult because of the multiple, important roles sodium plays in recipes.  For instance, beyond taste, sodium contributes to texture, freshness and keeping food safe.

As mentioned above, at times, we’re able to reduce sodium by adding additional spices to ensure the flavor of the food remains vibrant, and in some cases we’ve been able to adjust the placement of the sodium – moving it to the outside so it’s more easily perceived by the taste buds.

I am so proud of the talented food experts I work with every day at General Mills who are dedicated to making great tasting food that is also good for you. They really are the original foodies who have a ton of passion for creating great products.

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