Big G Progresses on Vow to Lower Sugar in Cereal

The company said that it has reduced sugar levels in cereals advertised to children by 14 percent since 2007 and made substantial progress in 2010.

General Mills said Thursday that it has reduced sugar levels in kids' cereals by 14 percent on average since 2007-and 8 percent of that reduction was achieved in 2010.

Last December, the Minneapolis-based food manufacturer pledged to reduce sugar in all Big G cereals advertised to children under the age of 12. Specifically, the company said that it would achieve “single-digit” levels of grams of sugar per serving-although it declined to say when it would achieve that goal. At the time of the announcement, all such cereals had been reduced to 11 grams of sugar or less per serving.

A year later, General Mills is saying that those cereals will have 10 or fewer grams of sugar per serving by the end of the calendar year. Some cereals are already at 9 grams of sugar per serving.

“We are making real progress,” Jeff Harmening, president of General Mills' Big G cereal division, said in a statement. “We think consumers will be very pleased because we are reducing sugar and our cereals still taste great.”

Ten cereals were included in the company's pledge-including Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Cocoa Puffs. The company last year said that four of its other cereals-Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, Boo Berry, Chocolate Lucky Charms, and Franken Berry-would have their sugar content reduced but not into the single digits per serving because they're not marketed to children.

According to General Mills, ready-to-eat cereals-including sweetened cereals-account for less than 5 percent of a child's sugar intake, on average. “Still, we know that some consumers would prefer to see cereals that are even lower in sugar,” Harmening added.

In the years prior to General Mills' December 2009 pledge, it and other cereal makers-including rival Kellogg's-were criticized for marketing sugar-laden cereals to children. In response, some began adding vitamins and other nutrients to their products.

In 2008, General Mills started adding calcium and vitamin D to its cereals, and in 2005, it started adding whole grains. The company said Thursday that it has recently been increasing those key nutrients. Now, for example, all of its Big G kids' cereals deliver at least 10 percent of the daily value for calcium and vitamin D. Every Big G cereal also provides at least 8 grams of whole grain per serving-and more than 20 contain 16 grams or more, the company said.

General Mills is Minnesota's eighth-largest public company based on revenue, which totaled $14.8 billion during the fiscal year that ended in May.