Nestle has announced today that it has removed all artificial ingredients in confectionery products in the UK.
It began replacing artificial ingredients with natural options in 2005 and has since reformulated 79 confectionery items, including KitKat, Smarties and Quality Street.
James Maxton, corporate communications at Nestle told ConfectioneryNews.com that the move was “based on consumer sentiment”.
Nestle products outside the UK still contain artificial ingredients, but there are similar initiatives underway in Canada and other Western Europe markets.
“The UK shows it’s possible to do this,” said Maxton.
A recent poll from Nielsen found that 92% of consumers worldwide were concerned by artificial colours and 88% would prefer natural ingredients.
Nestle also pointed to a consumer survey from Health Focus International in 2008 which found that 74% of UK consumers looked for natural products over options with artificial additives.
To go artificial free, the company used a variety of natural ingredients including concentrates of fruit, vegetables and edible plants such as carrot, hibiscus, radish safflower and lemon to give colour to products.
Maxton said the company began by removing artificial colours on products aimed at children such as Milky Bar and Smarties.
The final product to go artificial free was Nestle Crunch. Maxton said this product took longer than others as it was manufactured in Italy and Nestle France managed the brand.
He said one of the biggest challenges was finding a natural green colour for Aero Peppermint, which was eventually achieved through the plant extract copper chlorophyll in 2010.
Nestle claims to be the first major UK confectioner to remove all artificial ingredients.
Cadbury previously made a commitment to remove all artificial colourings by 2008.
Maxton said: “There is nothing to say they have done it. Cadbury’s Crème Egg still contains some artificial ingredients.”
Asked whether Nestle would step up all-natural claims on labels following the removal, he said that only Milky Bar will say “all natural” on the front of pack, all other products would simply state they were made with all natural ingredients somewhere on the label.