How People Eat Is Changing

January 22, 2016

People are changing their eating habits and finally the big food manufacturers are listening.  They had to in order to keep up with competitors and the buying power of our  collective purchasing dollars. The big food companies are responding to us, as customers, and how we want to eat!  Is it enough though?

Changes Made by Food Manufacturers to Accommodate Us as Consumers

General Mills:  General Mills, one of the cereal giants, is in the process of dropping their use of artificial colors and flavors in their cereals. Reese's Puffs and Trix will be the first cereals that will be changed.  Cereals, such as Trix, will undergo substantial changes.  Trix will have four colors instead of the six colors they have had for many years. General Mills was able to produce alternatives for red, orange, yellow and purple without the use of artificial colors.  Creating the colors of blue and green proved to be more difficult.  To attain the right color and taste for blue and green, without the use of artificial colors and flavors, couldn't be achieved.  If Trix is in your cereal bowl for breakfast, it will only have the four colors sometime in 2016.  By the end of 2016, 90% of General Mills cereals will no longer have artificial ingredients.

Fast Food Restaurants:  In recent months, Subway, Pizza Hut, and Panera Bread have stated their commitment to remove artificial ingredients in some or all of their dishes.

Candy Favorites:  Hershey and Nestlé have joined the wave of others by removing artificial ingredients from some or all of their products.  Hershey is changing some of the ingredients in their products from artificial ingredients such as emulsifier polyglycerol polyricinoleate to more natural ones such as almonds, cocoa beans and sugar.

Chicken Should Just Be Chicken:  These companies aren't alone in trying to meet consumers' demands for healthier products.  Tyson, Foster Farms and Perdue are limiting their use of antibiotics in their chicken.

The message is clear - consumers are walking away from iconic foods and their manufacturers preferring more natural, healthy foods. The manufacturers are trying to keep up with this wave.  While food companies are trying to keep up by making changes to their products, it won't save them.  What is needed is more than making a few changes to certain products.  It will take a much broader change in their approach for current food on the market and in future products they offer.

Changes Are Happening At Our Grocery Stores

In the premium real estate space on the grocery store shelves, it used to be the big name brands.  Now, you see other product lines that focus on healthy and organic food items.  A very big change from past years but a positive one for consumers.  While the steps the big food manufacturers are taking, they are going to have to do much more than dabble in changes here and there.  More competition is better for consumers in pricing and quality.

Only a few short years ago, it was customary for shoppers in a grocery store to walk up and down the inner aisles.  Now that trend is changed.  Grocery shoppers will do the majority of their shopping in the exterior of a grocery store where the fresh foods are kept such as raw produce, meat, prepared foods and dairy.  The inner aisles contain the more processed foods.  Shopping patterns are reflective of the trend of consumers buying real food more than processed food.  While the steps the big food manufacturers are taking, they are going to have to do much more than dabble in changes here and there.

Other trends the big food manufacturers are faced with are:

  • Since 1998, soda sales are down 25% mostly replaced by water.
  • In the same time period, orange juice sales have dropped 45%.  The public once considered orange juice a healthy breakfast beverage now sees it as a more serious drink of free sugars without any of the fruit's natural fibers.
  • Since 2000, sales of packaged cereals, mostly those sugary ones, are down 25%.  Their replacement is yogurt and granola.
  • From 2007 to 2013, sales of frozen dinners have decreased 12%.  Their replacement is fresh ingredients.
  • Since 2009, sales of fresh prepared foods have grown almost 30%. Sales of inner-aisles packaged food products have started to decrease.
  • Sales of raw vegetables and fruit are on the increase up to 10% over the past five year period.
  • Food sales for McDonald's have been decreasing every year for the past three years, with the trend  appearing to continue.

Changes That Still Need to Occur

While decreasing the artificial coloring in Trix from six to four, it isn't enough! General Foods needs to take it a few steps further by decreasing the sugar substantially, change to using 100% whole grains other than corn. While the artificial coloring is a start, it is a small step compared to what is necessary to compete and win our consumer dollars.

Big food manufacturers must make big, bold changes in the food products. In order to get our consumer dollars, they will need to dramatically cut down (or cut out) sugar, increase local and organic foods, process less, use whole foods such as vegetables, fruits and true whole grains. They will also need to develop more fresh products.

It is an exciting development for us, as consumers, to be using our collective voices (and our hard-earned dollars) to bring about changes the big food manufacturers have to listen to if they want to survive.

cathy wilson


Cathy Wilson, PCC, BCC, had RNY surgery in 2001 and lost 147 pounds. Cathy is a regular contributor to the OH Blog and authored the "Mind Matters" column in ObesityHelp Magazine. Cathy is a licensed pilot and loves flying. She is a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) and the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC).

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