Are you a loyal fan of a specific cereal brand? Is it the flavor? The nutritional value you once took the time to look up? The only thing your kids will eat? Well here’s some bad news. Manufacturers can, and often do, change product formulations, and you don’t even know about it. Sometimes the changes are not necessarily in the consumers best interest.
Thanks to Marion Nestle’s Food Politics blog for pointing out a falling out between loyal customers and Cascadian Farms, an organic food manufacturer that was acquired by General Mills in 1999. (To be precise, it was actually acquired by Small Planet Foods earlier in the 1990′s. General Mills acquired Small Planet in 1999)
The issue at hand – Cascadian Farm Purely O’s Cereal and a recent reformulation that TRIPLED the sugar count without notifying consumers. The company’s website is abuzz with rants by (ex)-loyal customers:
As a mother of three, and devoted Cascadian Farm consumer, I can’t imagine why more sugar was added to previously excellent product. We consumed about 2,3 boxes of Purely O’s per week until my children all the sudden told med how they tasted differently. Naively, I thought it would be marked on the box if any changes of the products had taken place…then I noticed the increased sugar content. This made us lose faith in your entire brand.
How you can call this cereal “Purely O’s” is beyond me. SUGAR!!??? Really???? CORN?? Really?? Why do we need another corn based,sugary cereal in the grocery aisles? And it is very sneaky to not announce a change on the box.
What you need to know:
In the past, Purely O’s had a front of pack label claiming “No added sugar”. This label disappeared a while ago. Then in October, the company changed its product formulation, without informing consumers.
To be fair, the increase in sugar is from 1 gram to 3 gram, which still leaves these O’s a better choice than virtually all other sweetened cereals.
The company lowered the sodium content from 280 to 200mg, which is commendable, but still too high for a breakfast cereal.
Other changes include removing whole grain barley flour and instead using corn meal. To compensate for the fiber loss, they’ve added oat fiber. The total fiber count hasn’t changed and is 3 grams per serving, the minimum you should be getting from a breakfast cereal.
So why hide the change? It’s not like people won’t notice – the ingredient list and nutrition panel are on the box, for crying out loud. Why the need for all this sneakiness? Didn’t General Mills know it would lose its loyal base of Cascadian Farms fans? Most likely, a focus group showed that the loss of a few loyal fans would be compensated for by an influx of new consumers for whom 3 grams of sugar is a 60-70% reduction.
We’ve updated the CerealScan database to reflect these changes. Cascadian Farm Purely O’s is still a top scorer, but for a group of (no longer) loyal customers, that doesn’t matter anymore.
What to do at the supermarket:
When buying a breakfast cereal, look for low sugar (6 or less grams. 3 grams is considered very low), high fiber (3 or more grams), and less than 150mg sodium per serving. Obviously, artificial colors are a big No No. These factors are much more important factors for your heath than whether the cereal is organic or not.
And just to reiterate, despite the changes, Purely O’s are still a better choice than most other cereals out there.
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