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MINNEAPOLIS - General Mills said yesterday that it will begin to make all of its Big G breakfast cereals with whole grains, the first leading food manufacturer in the category to do so.
All General Mills Big G breakfast cereals will now be "good" or "excellent" sources of whole grain, according to the manufacturer. Its existing whole grain cereals, which include Cheerios, Wheaties, Total, and Wheat Chex, were already "excellent" sources of whole grain and so their compositions were not changed.
General Mills will additionally roll out new packaging with eye-catching "Whole Grain" labeling on every cereal box. Products bearing the new packaging will arrive at stores over the next few weeks and remain on shelves into the New Year, depending on the brand.
"Consumers are looking for food products that can be part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle," said General Mills chairman and c.e.o. Steve Sanger in a statement. "This innovation brings important health news to the cereal aisle. Delivering whole grain across our entire Big G cereal portfolio will benefit the people who love our cereals, and should be good for the entire cereal category."
"Eating more whole grain could have a significant impact on the overall health of Americans," said Dr. David Kessler, former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "The science shows a strong connection between whole grain and a reduced risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity, which are the biggest preventable killers in the United States."
According to General Mills, the reformulation of its cereals is part of a greater emphasis on whole grain consumption as a public health priority, a mission the company shares with the federal government and the medical community. An expanded role for whole grains is expected in the revised U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which are due to be officially unveiled by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture in January 2005.
Although she would not comment specifically on the move made by General Mills, Stephanie Childs of the Grocery Manufacturers of America praised manufacturers that alter their products to benefit the health of consumers, especially children. "I think this is just one example of how the food and beverage industry is taking the new Dietary Guidelines to heart," she told Progressive Grocer. Such measures are indicative of a "commitment to helping Americans live healthier lives," Childs added.
Calling the current focus on whole grain an "extension" of the long-term interest in foods containing fiber, the GMA official said she thought that such a trend, unlike past short-lived flirtations with low-fat and oat-bran items, was evidence of a real change in consumers' eating habits. As a result, "we'll see many more [products of this type] from other companies in the future," she noted.
"If we can make it easier to help consumers find a [healthy] product, then we're closer to helping them live a healthier lifestyle than we were one product ago," continued Childs. "Every product helps."