Packaged Foods Get a Makeover


Increasingly, processed food makers are including fewer ingredients in their products.

As many people become more health-conscious, they want to know what’s in the foods they’re eating. The Hershey Company launched the ‘Simply’ product line to cater to this desire. Hershey’s chocolate syrup is now available with only five ingredients instead of the usual eleven. New Tostito’s tortilla chips contain only three ingredients: corn, sunflower oil, and salt. Companies are rushing to eliminate preservatives and other chemicals that may scare off some consumers. General Mills and ConAgra Foods are both pursuing similar projects in their product lines.

Now, food makers are focusing on only including ingredients that consumers would be familiar with in their own kitchen. Pepsi removed the sweetener aspartame from their diet sodas last year, but will resume implementing it after they received complaints due to the flavor. Taste isn’t the only reason manufacturers include additional ingredients in processed foods. Products without preservatives are more likely to spoil sooner and many salad dressings have thickeners or binding agents to prevent them from coagulating.

Something else consumers should consider is that fewer ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean a product is any healthier. More salt and sugar often replace artificial flavors, so that the product will continue to appeal to consumers. Terms can also be misleading – there is nothing healthy about lard, but it can be both “natural” and “organic.” For consumers who are trying to be health conscious, it is important not just to look at the ingredient list, but also at the nutritional value of those ingredients.

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