“No HFCS” an encouraging trend, but it’s up to us to sustain it

Posted by
August 14, 2012

Post wants to make sure that shoppers know its Raisin Bran cereal contains no HFCS

Will consumer rejection of high fructose corn syrup cause it to be phased out of non-organic processed foods, or, as the Corn Refiners Association claims (and hopes), will it remain a significant part of our collective diet as the public’s concern about it peters out?

That, it would appear, is largely your call.

Canvassing items in the supermarket, it seems as though food producers are now in the process of testing the waters, so to speak – that is, seeing what the consumer response is to products that make a big point of having no HFCS, while going about removing it from other items quietly and without any fanfare.

One example of the first strategy is what Welch’s is doing with its Concord grape jelly  and strawberry spread.   It now offers shoppers a choice between the “conventional” varieties, both of which list HFCS among their ingredients, and (for a slightly higher price) its “Natural” Concord grape and strawberry spreads, whose labels prominently advertise the fact that they contain “no high fructose corn syrup.”

But the product that makes perhaps the most prominent appeal to those wishing to avoid HFCS is Post Raisin Bran whole grain wheat and bran cereal, which features  the words “Contains NO HIGH FRUCTOSE Corn Syrup” in a  kind of ‘banner headline’  over its logo. This particular item, in fact, is notable for its lack of additives, its ingredients consisting of whole grain wheat, raisins, wheat bran, sugar, wheat flour, malted barley flour and salt.

Still another Post posting to this effect is “Our Promise: No High Fructose Corn Syrup” that can be found on the company’s Honey Bunches of Oats (both the regular and cinnamon varieties).

Other companies, however, have apparently chosen to be less up-front about the fact that many of their products currently do not contain any HFCS.  Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, for example, has none listed among its ingredients, which include “brown sugar syrup” instead, but makes no mention of that fact on the front of the box.

Nor, for that matter, does Kellogg’s seem to want to trumpet the fact that the HFCS is now gone from its other cereals as well, a process completed last year, according to a spokesperson in the company’s consumer affairs department.

A surprising acknowledgment

“We did remove it from all of our cereals,” the representative told us, and when we further inquired as to why that had been done, the answer we got is that Kellogg’s “works diligently” to stay on the “cutting edge” of current research, maintaining a team of food scientists for that purpose, “and we think there might be a link to the obesity factor.”  The spokesperson added that the rise in obesity might also have other causes, and that the company has no “direct proof” of the role of HFCS – but whatever those scientists discovered apparently provided sufficient justification for Kellogg’s to quietly go about eliminating this laboratory sweetener from its cereal line.

That, and the fact that “we’re aware that there are consumers out there that don’t want high fructose corn syrup.”

As to why Kellogg’s hasn’t bothered “actively labeling” the change the way its competitor Post has, one reason might be that HFCS hasn’t been totally eliminated from other Kellogg’s products, such as Keebler Cookies and Pop Tarts. Those popular breakfast treats still contain it,  we were informed,  because the company hasn’t yet found a replacement ingredient that “gives them the same texture and brown look that customers expect and are accustomed to.”  Not that Kellogg’s isn’t continuing to search for one.

So while the trend is encouraging, it’s by no means definitive.  It appears that the nation’s food manufacturers have indeed begun moving away from the use of HFCS, but are watching to see how customers respond – and if, in fact, they really care one way or the other. So let’s let them know where we stand on this very important issue through both the selections we make and by communicating to them directly how we feel about the ingredients in their products.