Indeed, Hershey's Simply 5 is a line extension of the company's classic chocolate syrup. The new chocolate syrup launched nationally in May and contains five ingredients compared with the classic's 11 ingredients.
"We've gotten extremely great feedback," said Shawn Houser, product development director for Hershey.
Hershey also has made its own changes and "consolidated and simplified" various candy brands in its confections portfolio. Now, it will apply the strategy across its entire snacks portfolio, which includes the Krave brand.
"It's really taking out the artificial flavor and making sure that we're using natural vanilla in there as well as getting rid of some of the emulsifiers that might be a little scary to consumers when they first see them on the label," said Houser.
Meantime, Nestle — another major candy brand — earlier committed to removing artificial flavors and at least two food colorings from all of its chocolate products, including Nestle Butterfinger, Crunch and Baby Ruth.
In August, the Nestle-owned Stouffer's frozen entrees became the latest classic brand to announce a recipe change when its regular lasagna with meat and sauce product removed four ingredients — bleached wheat flour, dextrose, autolyzed yeast extract and carrageenan. It explained that "simplifying recipes" was part of a new "Kitchen Cupboard" program, which emphasizes ingredients consumers might find at home.
"Today's consumers are seeking food with ingredients they recognize and trust," Tom Moe, director of marketing for the Stouffer's brand, said in a statement.
Nestle, with other U.S. packaged food brands such as DiGiorno, Tombstone, California Pizza Kitchen, Jack's, Hot Pockets and Lean Pockets, has also made changes to its pizza and snacking products by removing artificial flavors and reducing sodium.
Executives say the challenge in making product reformulations with classic food brands is to not sacrifice quality and maintain the flavor, texture and overall taste. Moreover, another issue that sometimes gets raised is by removing certain artificial ingredients the product may have a shorter shelf life.
There also can be risks associated with reformulating classic products and there are several examples where it didn't work. For example, weak sales resulted in PepsiCo saying last year it would drop the sweetener aspartame from its diet colas but then the beverage giant brought it back. Also, there have been some ketchups that got rid of the high fructose corn syrup initially, but they went back to them because they didn't see sales increase.
"Manufacturers are under the impression that if they switch to being non-GMO or take high fructose corn syrup out of their formulations, for example, then consumers will flock to their product," said Abbott. "The reality is that legacy brands need to transition to clean [ingredient] panels to simply remain relevant to the consumer so these products are still even part of the consideration set."
She added, "For most legacy brands, not making this transition is less about increased sales and more about basic survival."