When the Kraft-Heinz merger was announced, there was a lot of speculation about how the newly merged company would work to make some of its products healthier. The merger is not official yet, but Kraft has already chosen to take one of its most-loved products in a healthier direction. By 2016, Original Kraft Macaroni & Cheese will no longer be made with preservatives and synthetic colors, according to the Chicago Tribune.

There are two reasons I feel positive about this change. The first is that the millions of children (and adults) who eat Kraft Macaroni & Cheese will no longer be ingesting the dyes Yellow Nos. 5 and 6. Removing the artificial dyes from Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, or any processed food, does not turn it into a healthy food, but it does take the product in a better direction. Although the FDA says food dyes are fine, the European Parliament requires products that contain synthetic food colors to carry warning labels that say “consumption may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”

The artificial dyes in Kraft’s Macaroni & Cheese were one of the reasons I stopped buying that product for my family. After a taste test of other brands, we said bye-bye to the blue box and started buying Back to Nature’s Organic Macaroni & Cheese instead.

The second reason I like the change is that Kraft actively sought consumer input on the change. This is a very different picture of the value that Kraft puts on consumers than the picture painted in 2013 when Kraft removed the artificial dyes from some of its novelty shape macaroni & cheese products but not the original version.

At that time, Kraft denied the decision was in response to a Change.org petition asking the company to remove artificial dyes. It seemed to me that in denying a consumer petition had anything to do with the change, Kraft was telling consumers it didn’t care about their input.

But, according to the Chicago Tribune, Kraft has been working on changing its formula for Original Macaroni & Cheese for the past three years — all with consumer input. Kraft’s vice president of marketing for meals, Triona Schmelter, said company officials have been listening to what consumers, and parents in particular, have been saying.

Kraft met with families in their homes, while grocery shopping, and as they cooked and ate to get a better sense of consumer preferences. While people say they want improved nutrition, such as more protein, calcium and whole grains, "the one thing they are most adamant about," Schmelter said, is "they absolutely don't want us to change the taste."
Paprika, annatto and turmeric will now be used to color the product, without making any change to the flavor. By the end of 2016, other varieties of Kraft macaroni & cheese will also have formula changes, although specific details about those changes are limited. 

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.