Food companies have been making some huge changes in the way they manufacture their products. Due to increasing pressure from the public to only eat foods they view as natural, quite a few big-name companies have been steadily reducing their use of artificial ingredients. The latest to jump on the bandwagon is General Mills, which according to Manufacturing.net announced June 22 that 90 percent of its cereals will be free of artificial ingredients by 2016.
The ingredient change is in response to the movement toward healthier options in fast food establishments. The 2014 Global Health and Wellness Report from research firm Nielsen indicated a shift in thinking for people around the world. Out of those surveyed, 79 percent said they were making dietary choices to prevent health conditions like obesity and diabetes, and the report also mentioned more healthy food is being purchased worldwide. This trend in healthy eating is forcing companies like General Mills to rethink their ingredients lists.
Brands Making the Change
Besides General Mills, other companies like Nestle USA and Subway have already made the big announcement earlier in the year that they would be switching to an all-natural ingredient base. Nestle USA said in February it would be removing artificial flavors and colors, like Red 40 and Yellow 5, from more than 250 chocolate products by the end of 2015, according to The Wall Street Journal. This move makes it the first major U.S. candy company to remove artificial ingredients.
Nestle's own researchers have been hard at work looking at opinions of the American public, according to NPR, and cite studies like Nielsen's health and wellness report.
"Consumers have been telling us that artificial colors and flavors are becoming a decision factor when they're making food purchases," Leslie Mohr, Nestle's nutrition, health and wellness manager, told NPR.
Another company making strides toward no longer using artificial ingredients in its products is Subway. The company, which is the largest privately held fast food chain in the world, announced at the beginning of June it would eliminate artificial ingredients in its North American restaurants by 2017, according to Reuters. The company has already taken strides toward making its products healthier, including the removal of trans fats in 2008 and high fructose corn syrup from sandwiches and salads in 2014. The company is confident that the shift in ingredients won't mean a price hike for customers.
"There is an overall trend in food cost increase," said Elizabeth Stewart, the director of corporate social responsibility for Subway. "If in the future our costs go up it will be driven by the trend in food costs, and not this initiative."
What Does This Shift Mean For The Manufacturing Line?
Companies looking to make this shift to fewer artificial ingredients are faced with a logistics decision. How do they make this change to their manufacturing lines without slowing production or making mistakes? Integrating electronic data capture into the manufacturing process would streamline data collection and help facility managers make sure the production line continues to flow smoothly.
When any change is made to the production line, there is the possibility that a recall could occur due to equipment malfunction or error. Companies should do everything in their power to avoid recalls, and one way to make sure equipment is working properly and accommodating the proper ingredient changes would be to use sensors for data collection on equipment functionality. Mobile data collection on systems could allow companies to detect and deal with problems with manufacturing machines that could potentially cause errors.