Companies usually don't mention this part (it's tough to make your average consumer sympathetic to a company's expenses), but switching to natural ingredients is like putting cash into a food processor and pressing ON. It's a quick and easy way to lose a lot of money.
"Natural ingredients are more expensive, so it skyrockets costs," explains David Henkes of Technomic, a consulting firm for the food industry. "You're either going to have to take a lower margin or raise the price to consumers.
"Nobody wants to sacrifice margin but in today's environment, if your product is not on trend... it's a choice between that and watching your sales drop 10, 15, 20% a year. So you're going to take the lower margin and like it."
Just look at Papa John's. According to Bloomberg, the pizza empire's plan to eliminate corn syrup, preservatives, and artificial colors is costing around $100 million a year. Pepperoni alone -- free of BHA and BHT fillers -- is a cool $2 million drop in the bucket.
According to Henkes, some companies just aren't ready to go there financially, but haven't ruled it out yet.
They don't want to lose customers
"Legacy brands and products have to be very careful in changing formation," says Henkes. "Any time you announce you're changing the recipe, there is skepticism and consumers think it's not going to be the same."
Often, the consumers are right. The Papa himself told Bloomberg the company gave up flavor in its ranch dressing because there was no other way "to get the chemical out."
Which explains why Kraft didn't announce changing its mac & cheese, instead repackaging it into a publicity stunt.