More top brands are reformulating products to meet demand for simple ingredients and less sugar.

Consumer desire for a shorter ingredient list and less processing of food products is growing, said Steve French, managing partner at the Natural Marketing Institute, during an April 8 presentation at Ingredient Marketplace in Orlando. Sixty-two per cent of shoppers said they seek foods that are minimally processed, and 53% prefer foods and beverages with a short list of recognizable ingredients, according to N.M.I. data.

In response to the trends, Nestle USA announced it has reduced added sugar and removed artificial ingredients from two Nesquik powdered formulas. The original chocolate and strawberry varieties now contain 15% and 27% less added sugar, respectively, and are free of artificial colors and flavors.

Nestle replaced the sugar with cocoa and other natural flavors and substituted beet juice powder for the artificial colors in the strawberry powder. Now with 10.6 grams of added sugar per two-tablespoon serving, the reformulated powders are slated to hit shelves nationwide beginning in April with a new label to indicate the changes. Nestle said it dedicated 18 months to the reformulation with consumer testing to ensure the reduced-sugar recipes maintain the taste of the original products.

The changes are the latest in a series of reformulations and sugar reductions announced by Nestle. Since 2000, the company has reduced added sugar in Nesquik’s chocolate powder formula by 35%. Within the next few months, every flavor in the Nesquik portfolio of powder and ready-to-drink products will contain only 10.6 grams of added sugar. Nestle has further committed to introducing product refinements and innovations to the brand over the coming years.

In February, the company announced plans to remove artificial colors and flavors from all of its chocolate candy products by the end of the year. Some product formulation changes include using annatto instead of Red 40 and Yellow 5 in Butterfinger products, and replacing artificial vanillin in Crunch products with natural vanillin. The company also is pursuing the removal of caramel coloring from its chocolate products.

Nestle is not alone in its commitments to simple ingredients and sugar reduction. Recently, five other leading companies have announced product reformulations to align with consumer health trends.

McDonald’s Corp.

McDonald’s Corp., Oak Brook, Ill., in April announced it revamped its recipe for grilled chicken. The “Artisan Grilled Chicken” filet features chicken breast and no artificial flavors, added colors or preservatives. The chicken is seasoned with “pantry spices” and herbs, such as parsley, salt and onion powder, and cooked in a canola and olive oil blend. Previously, the grilled chicken was prepared with liquid margarine, which included hydrogenated oils and artificial flavor.

Compared to the previous recipe, the new filet has fewer and more recognizable ingredients, which include garlic powder, lemon juice concentrate, honey, onion powder and vegetable starch. Notable changes to the recipe include the removal of sodium phosphates and maltodextrin.

General Mills

At General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, product renovation is a key part of innovation. The maker of Yoplait recently removed artificial colors and flavors from the brand’s children’s yogurts and revealed plans to roll out a 25% sugar reduction across the entire Yoplait Original line.

General Mills also removed aspartame from Yoplait Light yogurts. The company said it experimented with various sweetener options and swapped to sucralose after receiving tweets, comments and calls from consumers to eliminate the controversial ingredient.

“Around the world we see and understand that food preferences are changing,” said Kendall J. Powell, chairman and chief executive officer of General Mills, during a presentation at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in February. “People want natural foods with simpler ingredients. They are avoiding things like gluten, simple carbohydrates, artificial ingredients. They want more protein, more fiber, more whole grain. More natural and organic products. And consumers everywhere are snacking more than ever. All of these changes create tremendous opportunity for General Mills.”

Kraft Foods Group

Kraft Foods Group, Northfield, Ill., in February said it had replaced the high-fructose corn syrup in original Capri Sun juice drinks with sugar. With the reformulation comes a new product claim of 35% less sugar than other leading juice drinks.

The company also removed the artificial sweetener sucralose from the brand’s Roarin’ Waters line of flavored water beverages and replacing the ingredient with stevia leaf extract.

The changes were part of a larger initiative to reduce the number of calories in the marketplace by more than 25 billion annually. Kraft has been actively removing undesirable ingredients from many products within its stable of brands. In the past two years, the company has relaunched its Philadelphia cream cheese line without artificial ingredients, eliminated artificial dyes from its shaped macaroni and cheese and removed artificial preservatives from select Kraft Singles sliced cheese.

Hershey Co.

In February, the Hershey Co., Hershey, Pa., said it would begin transitioning to simple and easy-to-understand ingredients in such products as Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars and Hershey’s Kisses.

Hershey plans to make products with such recognizable ingredients as milk from local farms, roasted California almonds, cocoa beans and sugar. Additionally, the company said it would continue to work with suppliers to responsibly source sustainable ingredients, including 100% certified and sustainable cocoa and certified sustainable and traceable palm oil. The company said it is moving to non-bioengineered sugar and milk from cows not treated with rBST.

From Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars and Hershey’s Kisses, the company is removing lactose, vanillin and artificial flavor and adding natural flavor. Hershey also is dropping polyglycerol polyricinoleate (PGPR), an emulsifier, from its chocolate bars.

The Dannon Co.

As part of its commitment to the Partnership for a Healthier America, the Dannon Co., White Plains, N.Y., has pledged to reducing the amount of total sugar in Dannon products to 23 grams or less per 6-oz serving in 100% of products for children and 70% of the company’s products overall by 2016. Dannon said in February it already had met and exceeded its commitment to reduce sugar in products overall, with 76% of its portfolio meeting those standards, and had made progress with 91% of children’s products compliant at the end of the first year.

Dannon also said it is well on its way to achieving progress in fat reduction. The company has committed to reduce the amount of fat in Dannon products so that 75% of products will be nonfat or low fat, and as of February, 69% of products met that standard.