When you think of nacho cheese from Taco Bell, you probably picture a bright orange color that can really only be manufactured in a lab. That look will soon change, as the fast food chain plans to get rid of the artificial ingredients -- in this case, yellow dye no. 6 -- that cosmetically alter its food.
This kind of menu revamp has been adopted by many fast casual restaurants and big food brands this year. Kraft, Campbell Soup and many others have publicly announced promises to nix artificial ingredients and preservatives from most, if not all, of their edible offerings in the coming years, replacing them with natural alternatives.
The change comes at a time when consumer demand for healthier and more natural ingredients has surged: A 2014 report from the marketing research firm Nielsen showed that more than 60 percent of Americans found the lack artificial colors and flavors an important factor when making food purchases. While there isn't enough evidence to suggest that artificial flavors are harmful, removal is what the people want -- and their desires are being heard. Below, find 11 companies that are making changes to their foods now or in the near future.
Facebook/Chipotle Mexican Grill
“Just because food is served fast doesn’t mean it has to be made with cheap raw ingredients, highly processed with preservatives and fillers and stabilizers and artificial colors and flavors," Steve Ells, founder and co-chief executive of Chipotle, told the New York Times.
The Mexican restaurant pioneered transparency about ingredients for chain restaurants and big food brands. By April 2015, Chipotle successfully removed all GMOs from its foods, the first chain to do so. The company is currently working to improve its tortillas, with hopes of serving them without the dough conditioners they currently contain.
In June, the chain announced that it will be producing tortillas with just four ingredients: whole wheat flour, water, oil and salt. The tortillas are still in the testing stage, but Chipotle is optimistic.
Kraft's macaroni and cheese gets its iconic toxic-orange hue from artificial dyes like Yellow 5 and Yellow 6. By 2016, no longer: The boxed noodles will be colored with natural ingredients like paprika, annatto and turmeric.
We've prepared and tasted a box that's free of synthetic colors and preservatives and, in truth, there doesn't seem to be much of a visual or taste difference between the old and new versions.
Along with artificial colors and flavors, Taco Bell will also remove high-fructose corn syrup and palm oil from its recipes by the end of 2015. By the end of 2017, it will remove artificial preservatives "where possible," Quartz reports.
These changes will affect more than 95 percent of the menu: Drinks or co-branded products (like Cap'n Crunch Delights, for example) will not be altered.
As USA Today reports, "Taco Bell's avocado ranch dressing and red tortilla chips also will lose dyes that deepened the color of the food. Beef will get a sprinkle of real black pepper, instead of 'black pepper flavor.' High-fructose corn syrup and unsustainable palm oil will also be nixed."
Pizza Hut says it'll remove artificial flavors and colors from its U.S. pizzas by the end of July 2015. "Today's consumer more than ever before wants to understand the ingredients that make up the foods that they enjoy," CEO David Gibbs said in a statement.
The chain belongs to Yum! Brands, a company that also owns Taco Bell.
Instead of serving turkey preserved with propionic acid, within two years Subway will carry meat kept fresh will natural ingredients like vinegar. The sandwich chain is axing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives in North American stores by 2017.
In May the sandwich chain released "The No No List," a long page of ingredients that'll be removed from its products by the end of 2016. The document also lists all additives that the company pledges to never add to food.
Hot Pockets, Lean Pockets, DiGiorno, California Pizza Kitchen, Tombstone and Jack's are all owned by Nestle. The company announced in June that these products would be artificial flavoring-free by the end of 2015.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Nestle is attempting to appeal to a more health-conscious clientele, and hopes to reduce its products' sodium content by 10 percent.
"We know people want to feel good about the foods they eat, and they're seeking foods made with fewer artificial ingredients and less sodium," John Carmichael, president of the Nestle Pizza & Snacking Division, said in a statement.
The cereal super brand will lose some of its quintessential colors by 2017, when it will completely phase out all of its artificial flavors. Avid Trix eaters will notice blue and green crispies missing from their cereal bowls, as the company was unable to reformulate the colors with a suitable and natural alternative, USA Today reports. By 2017, Trix will be made with fruit and vegetable juices and natural vanilla flavoring.
Arturo de Albornoz/Flickr
The pizza chain will shell out $100 million a year to eliminate synthetic ingredients from its recipes by 2016, Bloomberg reports. In total, the company plans to shed 14 ingredients from its products, including corn syrup and a slew of preservatives.
The restaurant's accoutrements are more of a culprit than its actual pizzas, with the company pulling MSG and trans fats from its dipping sauces.
** RCB **/Flickr
The makers of this classic soup will stop using artificial ingredients by 2017. The change will affect more than just soup: Campbell's brands include Pepperidge Farm cookies and Swanson broth as well. The company will also be nixing high-fructose corn syrup from some of its food items.
Noodles and Co./Facebook
The 445-unit chain announced in May that it'd be removing all artificial colors, flavors and preservatives from its soups, sauces and dressings before the end of 2015.
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