Nestlé said through its joint venture with General Mills, known as Cereal Partners Worldwide (CPW), it would cut the sugar content of 20 Nestlé breakfast cereal brands popular with children and teenagers to 9g or less per serving by the end of 2015.
The pledge will mean cutting sugar content by up to 30% across brands including Nesquik, Chocapic, Honey Cheerios, and Milo.
The firm also announced that whole grain will be the main ingredient in all the new recipes.
The amount of calcium per serving will rise to at least 15% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA), which varied in different parts of the world. In the EU, 15% of the RDA for calcium was 120mg.
The sodium content will also be reduced to 135mg or less per serving.
Although the sugar content of breakfast cereals is reducing, their energy content will remain about the same, said the firm. The sugar will be replaced with other ingredients, usually other carbohydrates, which contain a similar amount of calories.
Jeff Harmening, CPW president and ceo, said: “We are committing to improve about 5.3bn portions of Nestlé breakfast cereals in more than 140 countries around the world.”
Driven by consumers
He said the reduction was driven by consumers rather than a threat of tougher regulation. “If we're not delivering what they want, somebody else will deliver what they are looking for. The consumers are the judge,” he said.
During the past nine years, Nestlé has cut more than 9,000t of sugar and nearly 900t of salt from its recipes, while adding more than 3.4bn servings of whole grain, it claimed.
“Nestlé breakfast cereals provide whole grain and are typically lower in fat, salt or sugar than many other breakfast options,” said Harmening.“They are also lower in calories, containing less than 200 per serving with milk.”
Nestlé and General Mills formed a joint venture in 1990 to sell Nestlé-brand cereals such as Cheerios in more than 140 countries outside the United States and Canada. The markets account for total cereal sales of about £16M ($25bn).
The reformulation will affect about 5.3bn portions of cereals sold each year.