Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

GMO-free Cheerios no big seller

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NEW YORK -- Plain old Cheerios are no longer made with genetically modified ingredients, but the switch hasn't yet translated to a boost in sales.

General Mills, the company that makes the cereal, in January announced it would start making its plain Cheerios without GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. The move came after a campaign by the group Green America, which prompted fans to express their support on the Cheerios' Facebook page.

On Wednesday, CEO Ken Powell said in a phone interview the Minneapolis company has got supportive letters and online comments for its decision. But he said the company was "not really seeing anything there that we can detect" in terms of a sales lift.

"It's what I expected," Powell said. He added genetically modified organisms aren't really a concern for most customers.

Americans have been moving away from cereal more broadly, as alternatives such as Greek yogurt or breakfast sandwiches have gained popularity. That has left General Mills and rival Kellogg Co. struggling to boost sales. Cheerios is no exception; Powell conceded sales have been "down somewhat" for the brand.

As for GMOs, there has been little scientific evidence showing foods grown from engineered ingredients are less safe than their conventional counterparts. But their use has become a growing issue, with some saying they could have longer-term health impacts and people have the right to know if genetically modified ingredients are used in foods.

Green America, the group that pushed for the change to Cheerios, noted it's not surprising the change hasn't made a sales impact since the company's Not Made With Genetically Modified Ingredients label is on the side of the box and General Mills hasn't promoted the switch.

It also noted General Mills seems "dismissive" of consumer preferences and refuses to obtain third-party verification for its claim Cheerios aren't made with GMOs.

The change does not apply to other boxes of Cheerios, such as Honey Nut Cheerios or Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, which still use genetically modified ingredients.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 21, 2014 B15

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