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In the public eye

Using demonstrations, opinion pieces and campaigns in traditional media and increasingly over social media, and especially by voting with their dollars and boycotting, consumers are flexing their right to an opinion—and sometimes they get results.

On Tuesday, Tyson Foods, the largest poultry producer in the U.S., said it would cut the use of human antibiotics on chickens by 2017. Last week, four brands announced changes to each of their businesses because of protests and pressure from organizations and the public.

Mattel confirmed it was halting production of Sea World Trainer Barbie following a backlash against the aquatic parks from animal rights activists over treatment of orcas and the safety of trainers.

Kraft said it would stop using artificial coloring in its macaroni and cheese meal following petitions by consumer advocates. Sales of the iconic product have sagged of late as consumers turned toward less processed alternatives.

Similarly, Pepsi announced it will stop using aspartame as a sweetener in Diet Pepsi and other products due to consumer requests to ditch the artificial sweetener

Meanwhile, as the Supreme Court weighs a case against Abercrombie & Fitch over whether it denied a Muslim applicant who wore a headscarf a job because of the retailer's dress code forbidding headwear, the company announced several changes to its policies. The brand said store associates would no longer be hired based on their body type or physical attractiveness, they would discontinue the use of shirtless models, and stop featuring sexualized images on shopping bags by July.

This isn't the first time Abercrombie has made a bid to change its image. After a 2013 petition targeting the brand's exclusionary sizing practices drew more than 80,000 signatures, the company launched an anti-bullying campaign, but critics labeled it insincere. The retailer also added some plus-size apparel to its assortment.

Here is a roundup of other examples of the power of public pressure to change company policy, in categories from food to fashion to personal care products.

—By Colleen Kane, special to CNBC
Posted 27 April 2015

Emilie Duchesne | Vetta | Getty Images