4 Things We Can Learn From Kraft’s Removal of Artificial Dyes

Kraft Winter Shapes Mac N Cheese

Kraft sort of announced yesterday that it will be removing artificial dyes from 3 macaroni and cheese products early next year. This information was not available on Kraft’s website or investor relations page. It was published by an AP reporter who spoke with Triona Schmelter, Kraft Food Group Inc.’s vice president of marketing for meals. She said that

the company was looking to improve the nutritional profiles of the three macaroni and cheese varieties more broadly. The new recipes will also add whole grains and reduce the amount of sodium and saturated fat, she said. Read more from AP

The three varieties of mac n cheese that will see a formulation change in January are:

  1. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner,  SpongeBob SquarePants
  2. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner, Halloween Shapes
  3. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner, Winter Shapes

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In case you are wondering, Yellow #5 and Yellow #6 are synthetic dyes that are derived from petroleum and make the cheese sauce look brighter and more appetizing. The problem is that they cause hyperactivity in some children. They have also been shown to cause tumors in rats in some lab studies. In Europe, the very same Kraft uses natural food colorings for the same products, due to stricter regulations.

A few thoughts on Kraft’s steps:

1. Consumer action is making a difference! Earlier this year fellow blogger Vani Hari (the Foodbabe) submitted a petition with 350,000 signatures to Kraft, asking for the removal of artificial dyes.

2. It’s not just the colors. Kraft is reformulating the entire product, not just the color. They are adding whole grains, removing some salt and some saturated fats. These are important changes that have a more immediate impact on health on all consumers, compared to the potential danger of artificial colors.

3. Baby steps need to be encouraged. Some have commented that this move is not enough. Why only 3 products? Why not remove GMOs? Etc. While this change is really just a drop in the sea, one could view it as a test case for future product improvements. Kraft is worried that the changes it makes may cause a dip in sales for the millions of consumers who are less motivated by nutrition concerns. So it is dipping its toes in the water.

4. This is a real change, not a PR move. Often times you’ll hear a company CEO announcing that by 2025 or some other far away date in the future, their products will have 30% less calories or 50% less sodium. The announcement is applauded and gets covered by the media, but fast forward a few years and nobody notices that the company actually did not follow through. Kraft did not make a big announcement. The changes are for 3 specific products.

What does the future hold for these corporate giants and industrialized food products? We don’t have a crystal ball, but active consumers who vote with their dollars can certainly create change!

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  • Yellow Green FMkt

    Thank you for this article.
    As we make small steps towards a real food world. We have to take time to applaud the corporations that walk with us. A two part education process is going on. One the Business’ that make our processed food and two the consumers. This change by Kraft will have ramifications far larger than may be at first recognizable. If their sales of Mac & Cheese increase at all you will see a huge follow on by other brands. It will make the task of change so much easier.

  • Catherine

    So glad to see that they are at least trying to make an effort. Hopefully it will lead to bigger and better things!

  • Casey

    I think this small step by Kraft was taken to the delay the more important step of removing artificial dyes from its main product. Similar to how McDonald’s recent move to remove soda from Happy Meal ads delays taking the most important step of not marketing to children: http://kyhealthykids.com/2013/10/15/kudos-to-mcdonalds-not-so-fast/

  • Gia

    I think they would make more money if they took out all of the poison’s from all of their product. People would be buying them up a whole lot more then. These corporations only care about money anyway, so I don’t know why they haven’t figured out that if they make their products according to how consumers want them which is free of artificial dyes and no GMO’s that they would make a killing on these products and their bank accounts would be even bigger.