Silly rabbit, no one wants natural

By Rebecca Firkser
Updated February 13, 2018
EC: Trix Cereal's Classic Artificial Colors Are Coming Back
Credit: photo by @generalmills via Instagram

General Mills announced on Thursday that they plan to bring back artificially colored and flavored Classic Trix cereal. In the last year, Trix, along with other cereals in the General Mills arsenal like Reese's Puffs, Cheerios, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, were changed to be made with only plant-based natural dyes like turmeric and fruit juice. The switch to natural was met with praise by some and outrage by many. The company’s new plan is to sell the classic cereal at grocery stores in addition to the new, naturally colored version.

When cereals like Reese's Puffs were switched to natural dyes, the change from shades of brown to slightly more muted shades of brown didn’t seem to bother consumers. Trix, on the other hand, had a much more noticeable de-saturation. The red, yellow, and purple puffs were less vibrant; the blue and green ones were completely gone. Consumers—or at least consumers who take to Twitter to call out their woes—were not happy.

“Our goal is to make sure that you can’t taste a difference between the cereal you used to buy and the cereal you’ll continue to buy,” describes a General Mills employee in a video produced by the company to explain the transition to natural colors. Although another employee in the video recognizes that people “eat with their eyes,” appearance may have had a lot more to do with consumer appreciation for Trix than the company thought.

The decision to reinstate classic Trix is likely due to the recent poor performance of their processed cereal in the market. Just earlier this week, General Mills reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly profits. Comparable cereal giant Kellogg, as well as Conagra Brands (which owns Hunt’s, Reddi Wip, Pam, and Peter Pan, in addition to many other brands) also have reported a slump in sales.

Of course, it is presumed that the reason for these companies’ poor sales is due to a mass consumer shift to whole foods-based, natural, and small-batch foods that go hand in hand with the wellness movement. Although General Mills’ launch of naturally dyed cereals and “French-style” Oui Yoplait yogurt sold in twee glass jars were intended to address this shift, low sales don’t suggest success of these products.

It’s intriguing that instead of diving further into the natural foods realm, General Mills has clearly decided to see if there’s a benefit to leaning out a bit. Bringing back the nostalgia of classic, hyper-saturated Trix could spark a return to the heydey of cereal, and perhaps reignite consumer excitement for the brand.