Consumer craving for healthier and more natural ingredients is spreading even to junk food, with Nestlé SA saying it will remove artificial flavors and colors from its Crunch and Butterfinger candy bars and other chocolates in the U.S.
Nestlé said it has been working for more than a year on taking out food colorings such as Red 40 and Yellow 5, and flavorings like vanillin from its more than 250 chocolate products. The changes will take effect by the end of the year.
The move makes Nestlé USA, a unit of Switzerland-based Nestlé with about $10 billion in sales, the first major U.S. candy manufacturer to remove such artificial ingredients—though others are working on similar moves.
Burgeoning demand for food made with simpler ingredients has put pressure on the packaged-food industry in recent years to develop natural substitutes that have reliable, cost-effective supplies.
Market-research firm Nielsen found in a recent study that more than 60% of Americans say that the absence of artificial colors or flavors is important in their food-buying decisions.
“We know that candy consumers are interested in broader food trends around fewer artificial ingredients,” said Doreen Ida, Nestlé USA’s president of confections and snacks. “As we thought about what this means for our candy brands, our first step has been to remove artificial flavors and colors.”
Nestlé said natural vanilla flavor will replace vanillin in Crunch bars. Annatto, which comes from the seeds of achiote trees, will stand in for the artificial food colorings long used in Butterfinger bars. While the move is more expensive, Nestlé said it won’t raise the price of its candy as a result, a spokeswoman said.
Even though colorings such as Red 40 are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, such ingredients have come under scrutiny in recent years as consumer advocacy groups such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest argue that they have ill health effects.
Red 40, in particular, is one of the most commonly used food dyes, found in many sodas, candies and sausage. An FDA review committee said it can cause allergy-like reactions of hyperactivity in children, but the finding didn’t warrant a ban.
Nestlé’s next step will be removing artificial colors and flavors from its gummy and sour candies like SweeTARTS and Nerds. Those are tougher to transition because of the bright colors that are harder to duplicate naturally, a spokeswoman said. But all new candies, such as Wonka Randoms which came out last year, are made with natural alternatives.