This week, Nestlé USA boldly committed to removing all artificial flavors and FDA-certified colors from all of its chocolate candy products by the end of 2015. The change will affect the food giant’s current portfolio of more than 10 chocolate brands and 250 products, including Nestlé Crunch, Butterfinger, Baby Ruth, Skinny Cow, Raisinets, Goobers, Sno Caps, 100 Grand, Oh Henry and Chunky. New versions of the products will begin appearing on store shelves by mid-2015, and will be identified by a “No Artificial Flavors or Colors” claim featured on-pack.
“We know that candy consumers are interested in broader food trends around fewer artificial ingredients,” said Doreen Ida, president of Nestlé USA Confections & Snacks. “As we thought about what this means for our candy brands, our first step has been to remove artificial flavors and colors without affecting taste or increasing the price. We’re excited to be the first major U.S. candy manufacturer to make this commitment.”
According to Ida, Nestlé USA conducted research on brands such as Butterfinger, which indicated that U.S. consumers prefer candy brands they know and love to be free from artificial flavors and colors. In addition, findings from Nielsen’s 2014 Global Health & Wellness Survey show more than 60 perfect of Americans say no artificial colors or flavors is important to their food purchase decisions.
So what will Nestlé USA use in place of the ubiquitous artificial ingredients traditionally used to flavor and color its candies? The company says it will turn instead to ingredients from natural sources: For example, in Butterfinger’s “crispety, crunchety, peanut buttery” center, annatto — which comes from the seeds found in the fruit from the achiote tree — will replace Red 40 and Yellow 5. In Crunch, natural vanilla flavor will replace artificial vanillin.
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“We never compromise on taste. When making these changes to more than 75 recipes, maintaining the great taste and appearance consumers expect from the chocolate brands they know and love is our #1 priority,” said Leslie Mohr, nutrition, health and wellness manager, Nestlé Confections & Snacks. “We conducted consumer testing to ensure the new recipe delivers on our high standards for taste and appearance.”
No word on whether the natural ingredients are more expensive or more difficult to procure than their artificial counterparts, but if not, it begs the question of why the candy industry defaulted to the chemical versions in the first place. Regardless, consumer sentiment continues to tip in favor of ingredients they can readily identify and pronounce, so it will be interesting to see if other candy companies follow Nestlé’s example.
Nestlé has recently made other industry-leading strides in terms of improving its supply chain: In August, through a partnership with NGO World Animal Protection, the company instituted a strict set of animal welfare guidelines that the hundreds of thousands of farms that supply Nestlé with their dairy, meat, poultry and eggs must meet in order to maintain their relationships with the company; and earlier this month, Nestlé was found to be one of only six major companies to have comprehensive policies in place to protect tropical forests, according to a new ranking by Global Canopy Programme.