Minneapolis (Dec. 9, 2009) – General Mills announced today a public commitment to reduce sugar in cereals advertised to children to single-digit grams of sugar per serving. The initiative is in place and progress has been made, the company said, “with further reductions to continue until single-digit levels are reached on all cereals advertised to children.”
“Ready-to-eat cereals, including presweetened cereals, account for only five percent of the sugar in children’s diets,” said Jeff Harmening, President of General Mills’ Big G cereal division. “Still, we know that some consumers would prefer to see cereals that are even lower in sugar, especially children’s cereals. General Mills has responded – and we are committing to reduce sugar levels even more.”
General Mills has been reducing sugar in cereals advertised to children, while increasing key nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D, and providing whole grain. “We have already made meaningful changes across our cereal portfolio,” noted Harmening, “and we have reached and exceeded our original goals. So today we are strengthening our goal – by publicly committing to further reduce to single-digit levels of sugar per serving every cereal advertised to children under twelve.”
The company’s commitment is among the most aggressive goals advanced in the food industry. The initiative will extend globally to 130 countries, with Cereal Partners Worldwide – the global cereal joint venture in which General Mills is a partner – adopting similar commitments.
General Mills has led numerous health and nutrition initiatives in cereal. The company was a pioneer in fortifying cereals with vitamins and minerals, and continued its leadership by fortifying its entire line of children’s cereals with calcium and vitamin D in 2008.
General Mills’ 2005 whole grain initiative has been called one of the biggest health initiatives in the food industry. The company committed to ensuring that every Big G cereal would help deliver the benefits of whole grain. As a result, every Big G cereal now provides at least 8 grams of whole grain per serving, with manycereals providing 16 grams of whole grain or more.
Announcing that initiative, General Mills said it would deliver 26 million servings of whole grain every day across America. Today, General Mills’ Big G cereals are delivering 35 million servings of whole grain daily across America. Other companies in the food industry followed with initiatives of their own, and America’s whole grain intake has increased as a result. Ready-to-eat cereal is now the No. 1 source of whole grains in a child’s diet – and whole grain is the number one ingredient in every cereal that General Mills advertises to children.
“Ready-to-eat cereal really is one of the best breakfast choices you could make,” said Susan Crockett, Ph. D, vice president, Health and Nutrition, and director of the Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition at General Mills. “More frequent cereal eaters tend to have healthier body weights – and lower Body Mass Index measures (BMIs). It’s true of men. It’s true of women. It’s true of kids. And that includes people who eat presweetened cereals.”
Ready-to-eat cereal eaters consume less fat, less cholesterol and more fiber than non-cereal eaters. Cereals also deliver important vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients, such as vitamins A, B6, iron, niacin and zinc, making cereal a top source of key nutrients in children’s diets.
“Our first target was to reduce sugar in cereals advertised to children to 12 grams of sugar or less,” explained Harmening. “Many were already lower, but some were not. So we put in place a plan to reduce sugar levels in a series of steps in those cereals and others, while continuing to deliver great taste. As a result, we have already reduced sugar in many cereals, some by as much as 20 percent, and by spring General Mills cereals advertised to children will all have 11 grams of sugar per serving or less.
“Today, we are strengthening our goal,” Harmening added. “We are committing to reduce sugar in cereals advertised to children under 12 to single-digit grams of sugar per serving.”
To ensure the cereals continue to taste great, reductions will continue in a series of smaller steps. “Maintaining great taste while continuing to reduce sugar is a challenge,” noted Harmening. “It requires technology, time and investment. But we’re doing it. We are committed to reaching single-digit levels.”
“General Mills strives to be the health leader in every category in which we compete,” said Harmening, “Big G is going to continue to lead in cereal as well.”