Breaking News on Industrial Baking & Snacks

News > Manufacturers

5-minute chat with FoodNavigator-USA and BakeryandSnacks

GMO-free Cheerios: Did General Mills buckle to consumer pressure? Will the move backfire?

2 commentsBy Kacey Culliney & Elaine Watson , 10-Jan-2014

Loading...

General Mills’ move to go GMO-free on its flagship Cheerios brand has caused quite a stir. But what motivated this reformulation? And how will it play out?

FoodNavigator-USA editor Elaine Watson and BakeryandSnacks’ Kacey Culliney chew over some of their thoughts and what they’ve heard elsewhere.

General Mills announced its move to make GMO-free Cheerios at the very beginning of this year . The reformulation hasn’t taken much work as the dominant ingredient, whole grain oats, are already GMO-free. But the cereal major has now replaced its beet sugar with cane sugar and switched to non-GMO corn starch.

A surprising move without warning

BakeryandSnacks editor Kacey Culliney: Reformulation move came out of the blue

Kacey Culliney said the move came without any prior hints from a company that has stood strong on the use of genetically modified ingredients (GMO) for a considerable length of time.

“At the moment, I’m not sure myself of the motive behind the move, but what I do know is that it was a surprising one and I don’t think I’m the only one to have been surprised.”

She said that last year when activist group GMO Inside launched an anti-GMO campaign against General Mills and its competitor Kellogg, General Mills had stood strong on its use of GMOs, as did Kellogg.

Balancing business values and consumer engagement

Elaine Watson said that from a business stand-point, it was important for large consumer brands to show they were listening to consumers and engaging in the debate around GMOs and this was certainly one way to prove that.

“I think they’re also dipping their toes in the water and seeing what the reaction is. To me, it does feel a little bit like they’re trying to have their cake and eat it here.”

FoodNavigator-USA editor Elaine Watson: Move could send out mixed messages to consumers

She likened this move to the lean finely textured beef ‘debacle’ – where information from the company about the safety of ingredients got lost.

Did they just buckle under ‘consumer pressure’?

General Mills has steered clear of associating the move with 'consumer pressure' but did acknowledge that they wanted to see how consumers will react.

However, Elaine Watson said the move to remove GMOs from Cheerios could prove a confusing message for consumers. "If GMOs are safe, then why are they dropping them? And if there is a problem, even if it's just one of consumer perception, why are they only changing one recipe?" she said.

Kacey Culliney added: “How this fits into consumer sentiment is probably one of the most interesting parts of it all.”

She said that on the one part GMO Inside had claimed “a pretty big win” but General Mills was stepping away from the idea that the move was a result of consumer pressure.

Elaine Watson said it would be interesting to see how it played out and what the rest of the cereal industry and General Mills’ competitors had to say.

Have you got any thoughts on General Mills’ move to make Cheerios GMO-free? How do you think this will shape up for their business? And what do you believe the motivation to be behind it? Leave your comments below…

2 comments (Comments are now closed)

Increased costs passed through?

So, will the increased costs of specialty ingredients be passed through or is the brand going to become lower margin?

Report abuse

Posted by R Sweeney
11 January 2014 | 00h00

Social Responsibility?

General Mills prides itself on leading/responding to social issues. I think they are about to find out that that responding to social pressure cuts both ways.

Report abuse

Posted by Mark
10 January 2014 | 15h02

Related products

High-protein bread could bake up a storm: Euromonitor

High-protein bread could bake up a storm: Euromonitor

Diana Cowland

Senior Analyst, Health & Wellness, Euromonitor International

Cutting carbs, gluten or fat? The 'utter nonsense' behind claims to be the best diet

Cutting carbs, gluten or fat? The 'utter nonsense' behind claims to be the best diet

Dr David Katz

ddirector of Prevention Research Center. , Yale University

Bakeries struggling with calls to cut salt, sugar and fat

Bakeries struggling with calls to cut salt, sugar and fat

Manufacturers of baked goods are reaching a point where calls to cut salts, fats...

SFA head: ‘A little term called class action suits’ is prompting GMO removal

SFA head: ‘A little term called class action suits’ is prompting GMO removal

Genetically modified organisms are safe and there is a need and place for them...

Could oats be the next gluten-free star?

Could oats be the next gluten-free star?

Oats, when the supply chain ensures no cross-contamination, are a gluten-free cereal grain. So...

GMO-free Cheerios: Did General Mills buckle to consumer pressure? Will the move backfire?

GMO-free Cheerios: Did General Mills buckle to consumer pressure? Will the move backfire?

General Mills’ move to go GMO-free on its flagship Cheerios brand has caused quite...

Unilever joins with Solidaridad to tackle sustainable sugar cane challenge

Unilever joins with Solidaridad to tackle sustainable sugar cane challenge

Dirk Jan de With

VP Procurement Ingredients & Sustainability, Unilever

Industry concerned about data abuse as EFSA fans transparency wings

Industry concerned about data abuse as EFSA fans transparency wings

Euros Jones

Director of regulatory affairs, European Crop Protection Association (ECPA)

Unilever: Healthier food choices must be ‘doable’

Unilever: Healthier food choices must be ‘doable’

Hans Zevenbergen

Cross-category nutrition and health director, Unilever

Food Vision 2014: Bridge knowledge gaps, overcome change and work sustainably

Food Vision 2014: Bridge knowledge gaps, overcome change and work sustainably

What is the future of food? Simple communication of complex advances will be crucial,...

Innovation for today: Digital tech empowers industry to innovate

Chris Cornyn

founder & president, DINE Marketing

Festive video insights: Mintel experts offer up highlights and predictions

Festive video insights: Mintel experts offer up highlights and predictions

With 2013 fast drawing to a close and 2014 just around the corner, we...

Protein has a big ‘ordinary’ future, says Glanbia

Protein has a big ‘ordinary’ future, says Glanbia

Carla Clissman

European commercial director, , Glanbia Nutritionals

A year of change for DSM’s OatWell

A year of change for DSM’s OatWell

Ruedi Duss

Global Business Manager , DSM Nutritional Products

FiE video: Almond Board of California talks global supply and demand

FiE video: Almond Board of California talks global supply and demand

Richard Waycott

President & CEO, Almond Board of California

Roquette talks algae hope after Solazyme split

Roquette talks algae hope after Solazyme split

Despite a recent split from Solazyme and an on-going legal case, Roquette is “full...

Air Management Technologies: ‘Our goal is to have a zero-energy bakery’

Air Management Technologies: ‘Our goal is to have a zero-energy bakery’

US-based Air Management Technologies was among the winners for IBIE’s B.E.S.T. in baking awards...

Going online means you can capture millennials, says Busken Bakery VP

Going online means you can capture millennials, says Busken Bakery VP

Moving business online enables bakers to pick up new, younger customers because of the...

Bread’s riches to rags story: The villainous white loaf and heroic whole grain

Bread’s riches to rags story: The villainous white loaf and heroic whole grain

The bread sector has experienced a riches to rags story and is now in...

Key Industry Events