MINNEAPOLIS — General Mills, Inc. said it improved the health profile of products comprising approximately 25% of its U.S. Retail sales volume in fiscal 2011. The Minneapolis-based company first began tracking and quantifying health improvements in 2005, and said between fiscal 2005 and fiscal 2011 it has improved the health profile of 64% of its U.S. Retail sales volume. Improvements have included adding whole grains, fiber and calcium, and reducing calories, sugar, sodium and trans fats.

“Improving the health profile of our products is a major strategy for General Mills,” said Marc Belton, executive vice-president of global strategy, growth and marketing innovation at General Mills. “Our improvements are strongly tied to what we’re hearing from consumers. They’re seeking healthful, great-tasting foods that fit their lifestyles — and we are committed to improving the nutrition profile of our existing products and introducing innovative, new products that are both nutritious and taste great.”

Among the improvements made during fiscal 2011 are:

•Increased whole grain: “We continue to add whole grain to our Big G cereals,” General Mills said. “In fiscal 2011, we launched additional brands with whole grain, including a new variety of Cascadian Farm cereal and Good Earth Dinner Kits, each with at least 8 grams of whole grain per serving.”
•Increased calcium and vitamin D: “In fiscal 2011, we increased the calcium and vitamin D in Yoplait Original to 50% of the recommended Daily Value of calcium and 50% of the recommended Daily Value of vitamin D in every cup,” the company said.
•Reduced sugar: “Since 2007, we’ve lowered sugar levels in our kid cereals by more than 14% on average, with some reduced as much as 28%,” General Mills said. The company in December 2010 said all cereals advertised to children had been reduced to 10 grams of sugar or less per serving, with some already at 9 grams per serving.
•Reduced sodium: “We’ve reduced sodium by 10% across our cereal portfolio since 2008,” General Mills said. “In fiscal 2011, we also made significant strides in lowering sodium in other brands, including several Progresso soups, many Muir Glen tomato products and Shake ‘n Pour Bisquick.”

Since 2005, General Mills said it has improved the nutrition profile of more than 600 different products in the United States in a variety of ways, including formulating new products to include at least a half serving of whole grain, fruit, vegetables or low or nonfat dairy; reducing calories, fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar or sodium by 10% or more; formulating new products to meet specific internal requirements that include limiting calories, and meeting “healthy” criteria per labeled serving; and increasing beneficial nutrients such as whole grain, fiber, vitamins and minerals by 10% or more.

The company tracks and quantifies its health profile improvements through a proprietary “Health Metric” system that was created by the General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition.

“General Mills is committed to making our products nutritionally better,” said Susan Crockett, Ph.D., R.D., FADA and leader of the General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition. “The improvements we’re announcing today mark a significant technical achievement. Product reformulations can be challenging given the unique role each ingredient plays in a recipe. However, our steady progress reinforces our commitment to being a health and nutrition leader, delivering on our consumers’ desire for healthier product options.”

General Mills said several new products launched in fiscal 2012 reinforce the company’s focus on growing its healthful product portfolio. Among the new products are Fiber One 80 Calorie Cereal and Yoplait Light with Granola. Fiber One 80 Calorie Cereal has 40% of the Daily Value of fiber and calcium and 25% of the Daily Value of important vitamins and minerals in each serving, while Yoplait Light with Granola, launched in July, is yogurt with fruit on the bottom and a lid filled with 100% natural granola on the top.