MINNEAPOLIS — General Mills, Inc. continues to make good strides in its commitment to providing consumers with convenient, nutritious food that can help lead to healthier lives, the Minneapolis-based company noted in its 2016 Global Responsibility Report issued April 13.

Ken Powell, General Mills
Kendall J. Powell, chairman and c.e.o. of General Mills

“We continue to make progress toward our commitment to sustainably source 100% of our 10 priority ingredients by 2020 — representing more than 50% of our annual raw material purchases,” Kendall J. Powell, chairman and chief executive officer of General Mills, wrote in his letter to stakeholders. “Through our sourcing work, we are advancing sustainable agriculture, strengthening responsible practices, and improving the transparency and traceability of food supply chains. We further expanded our portfolio and continued to improve the healthfulness of our products.

“We delivered on a 2010 commitment to lower sodium in our top 10 categories that contribute sodium into the diet and reduced sugar in many parts of our portfolio. We also reformulated a number of our products to respond to the preferences of consumers seeking wellness benefits in the food they purchase. For example, we eliminated artificial colors and flavors in our cereals, increased our gluten-free products, and are now the second-largest U.S. producer of gluten-free products and the third-largest U.S. natural and organic food producer.”

The company has expanded its leadership in gluten-free products over the past year.

In 2005, General Mills implemented its U.S. Health Metric. The Health Metric measures improvements to existing U.S. products and encourages development of new U.S. products with strong nutrition profiles. Over the past decade, General Mills said it has increased beneficial nutrients and reduced nutrients to limit, including increasing whole grain consumption by introducing more than 200 products that provide at least 8 grams of whole grain per serving, and reducing sodium by more than 10% in more than 400 products.

Comparing the company’s targets with its progress, General Mills in the report said 77% of U.S. retail sales volume has been nutritionally improved since 2005, including more than 1,000 products.

In 2009, General Mills pledged to reduce all of its cereals advertised to children under 12 to single-digit grams of sugar per serving. In 2015, 100% of Big G cereals marketed to children contain 10% of sugar or less, and nearly 69% have 9 grams of sugar or less per serving. The company also said it has made strides in reducing sugar in other products. In 2015, the company reduced sugar by 25% in each serving of Yoplait Original, decreasing the amount of sugar to 18 grams from 26 grams previously. Since 2007, General Mills said it has reduced sugar in three other yogurts — Yoplait Go-Gurt, Yoplait Trix and Yoplait Kids — by nearly 25%.

General Mills’ progress on reducing sodium by 20% across its top 10 retail product categories by 2015 also is on track. At the end of 2015, the company had met or exceeded its goal in 7 of 10 categories and made “significant progress” in the other three, reductions across the 10 categories ranging from 18% to 35%. The effort included sodium reduction in more than one-third of General Mills’ U.S. retail sales volume.

“Our approach to sodium reduction involved incremental steps over several years to introduce changes gradually, giving people time to adapt their palates to the lower sodium levels,” General Mills noted in the report. “Product developers reduced sodium in many recipes by adding additional spices to ensure the flavor remains vibrant. In some cases we adjusted the placement of the sodium, such as moving it to the food’s surface so it’s more readily tasted. These changes allowed us to maintain the great taste consumers expect while reducing sodium intake.”

General Mills has committed to removing artificial flavors and colors from artificial sources from many of its products and has reduced sugar in its children's yogurt products.

In June 2015, General Mills committed to removing artificial flavors and colors from artificial sources from all of its U.S. retail cereals by 2017. As of Dec. 31, 2015, the company said 77% of its U.S. retail cereals met the goal, and by the end of 2016, the company expects 90% of the portfolio will be free of artificial flavors and colors from artificial sources. Meanwhile, 100% of U.S. retail Nature Valley granola bars, Betty Crocker cookies mixes, Mott’s and Equity fruit snacks have no artificial flavors or colors from artificial sources, the company said.

“General Mills cereals will meet our commitment using more recognizable, familiar ingredients to create the colors and flavors in our cereals,” the company said. “For example, Trix cereals will use ingredients such as fruit, vegetable juices and spice extracts — including turmeric and annatto — to achieve the distinctive red, yellow, orange and purple colors.”

General Mills also over the past year took steps to expand wellness offerings to meet diverse consumer needs, including expanding its leadership in gluten-free products, growing its natural and organic food business to $1 billion by 2019 and expanding protein-rich offerings. The company said it now offers nearly 1,000 gluten-free products in the United States, more than 260 organic retail products in the United States and Canada, and 225 U.S. retail products with at least 10% daily value of protein per serving.

For the full report, click here.