The bright orange color of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese doesn’t look natural. But for millions of kids, that bright orange hue in the bright blue box marks a comfort food—a creamy lunch or dinner side that keeps them coming back for more – if not for the taste, than for all of the artificial toxins within. Processed food company extraordinaire Kraft recently announced they would be improving at least some of their macaroni & cheese products by reducing the questionable artificial color ingredients within.
The announcement came on the heels of a Change.org petition that began in March and had more than 348,000 signatures at last count. While Kraft says their decision isn’t because of the petition, they no doubt heard the collective voice of consumers. Interestingly, one New York mother has started a similar petition, asking candy-maker Mars to replace their artificial colors with natural ones, creating a momentum that we need to collectively accelerate.
The plan is to remove artificial colors from three different varieties that come in kid-friendly shapes. This means the original Kraft Macaroni & Cheese will still contain artificial dyes, though the other varieties won’t. Apparently they want to keep the toxins available for those who like that sort of thing.
Kraft’s vice president of marketing for meals, Triona Schmelter, said the company will also add whole grains and reduce the amount of sodium and saturated fats in the selected varieties. This, she says, is in an effort to cater to “evolving customer preferences.”
Consumers are more frequently reaching for products with natural ingredients, even in processed and packaged foods. We are becoming more aware of the dangers associated with things like artificial colors, preservatives, and over-processed grains. And choosing these more healthful varieties is even more important to many for the sake of their children’s health. Competitors to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese products, like Annie’s, are getting more shelf-space as customer’s tastes change. Kraft couldn’t help but take notice.
Artificial food coloring, like those found in the brightly hued mac and cheese products or M&Ms, have been linked to hyperactivity in children, allergic reactions, and even cancer. Natural colors have not. Big food makers are understandably resistant to the change though because natural colors are more expensive, and their bottom line is their number one concern.
As an increasing number of consumers become aware of the fact that food companies don’t put their health as a top concern, they will spend more conscientiously. And when consumers begin spending with companies who care about their health, the giants who don’t will have no choice but to take note.