Nestlé USA has announced its commitment to removing artificial flavours and FDA-certified colours, like Red 40 and Yellow 5, from all of its chocolate products.
According to the company's US website, by the end of 2015, more than 250 products and 10 brands including Nestlé Butterfinger, Crunch and the US favourite Baby Ruth will be free of artificial flavours and certified colours.
The new products will be available by mid-2015, and will be identified by a "No Artificial Flavours or Colours" label featured on-pack.
Doreen Ida, president, of Nestlé USA Confections & Snacks, said: "Nestlé is the world's leading nutrition, health and wellness company and our commitment to remove artificial flavours and certified colours in our chocolate candy brands is an important milestone.
"We know that consumers are interested in broader food trends around fewer artificial ingredients. As we thought about what this means for our candy brands, our first step has been to remove artificial flavours and colours without affecting taste or increasing the price. We're excited to be the first major US candy manufacturer to make this commitment."
Nestlé USA conducted research on brands like Butterfinger that found that 60% of Americans say no artificial colours or flavours is important to their food purchase decisions.
Nestlé USA is replacing them with ingredients from natural sources. For example, in the Butterfinger the crispy, crunchy centre, annatto, which comes from the seeds found in the fruit from the Achiote tree, will replace Red 40 and Yellow 5 and in the Crunch, natural vanilla flavour will replace artificial vanillin.
The move has been met with caution by global market intelligence company Datamonitor who ask: "Is the ‘natural' approach really what consumers want?" and that it is important to consider the announcement in the context of the confectionery market.
According to a recent Datamonitor consumer survey, 38% of American consumers try to choose natural food and drink products "all" or "most of" the time. Though this is a significant proportion, it is clear that "natural" is still not the top priority for the majority. When asked what they consider to be the highest priority, 46% agreed "flavour" was number one. Nutritional information (39%) and checking of ingredients lists (27%) are only secondary considerations.
Recipe changes have proved difficult for other major confectionery brands. Just last month Mondelez International changed the recipe of the UK's leading Easter confectionery line Cadbury's Crème Egg so that the outer shell was no longer made with classic Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate, but instead a "standard" Cadbury milk chocolate. Although the change appeared relatively minor, the move created a stir in the media with loyal consumers disappointed that the classic recipe had changed.