Kraft bows to customer calls for less fake food

Kraft Foods Group Inc. has realized, after years of pressure from its customers, that their desire to eat less fake foods wasn’t just a passing fad.

The food giant KRFT, +0.86%  said Monday that starting in January 2016, its iconic “blue box” Macaroni & Cheese will no longer be made with synthetic colors or artificial flavors.

The move comes a month after the company launched a voluntary recall of about 242,000 cases of its Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner, because some boxes may contain small metal pieces.

“Kraft will replace the synthetic colors with those derived from natural sources like paprika, annatto and turmeric,” the company said in a statement. “These recipe changes are the latest steps in the Kraft Mac & Cheese journey to delight consumers with on-trend updates to meet consumers’ changing lifestyles and needs.”

Kraft has been pushed by consumer groups to remove the dyes for years. More than a quarter-million people had signed a petition on asking the company to remove the “potentially harmful” dyes — Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 — from its mac & cheese, arguing that they have already been banned in certain countries outside of the U.S.

Until now, the company’s response has been that the Food and Drug Administration have tested the dyes for decades, and deemed them safe. While Kraft hasn’t changed its stance on the safety of the dyes, it said Monday that it will follow its 75-year heritage of “listening, extensive research and continuous improvement.”

“We’ve met with families in their homes and watched them prepare Kraft Mac & Cheese in their kitchens,” said Vice President of Marketing, Meals Triona Schmelter. “They told us they want to feel good about the foods they eat and serve their families, including everything from improved nutrition to simpler ingredients.”

A Kraft spokesperson said the boxed shapes mac & cheese, including those with “Star Wars shapes” and “Minions shapes” introduced recently, were already free of artificial colorings. Instead of Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 shown in the current ingredients line for the blue box original, the shapes ingredients line says: “with paprika, annatto, and turmeric added for color.”

Kraft is by no means the only food company to make changes to satisfy consumers’ desire to eat more natural foods. Nestle USA NSRGY, -1.08% NESR, -1.63%  said in February that it will remove artificial colors and flavors from its chocolate candy, including Yellow 5, and McDonald’s Corp. MCD, +1.24%  said in early March that it would stop selling chicken raised with antibiotics important to human health.

Kraft’s stock gained 0.9% in afternoon trade. It has run up 41% over the last month, boosted by the announcement on March 25 that the company was being acquired by H.J. Heinz Co., in a deal facilitated by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway BRK.A, +0.49%  and Brazilian private-equity firm 3G Capital. – Top Stories

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