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Yoplait Light changing artificial sweeteners

The maker of Yoplait Light hopes a sweetener change can help bring back customers.

General Mills Inc. said Wednesday it plans to remove aspartame from its popular reduced-calorie yogurt and instead use another artificial sweetener, sucralose. Aspartame is better known by the brand names NutraSweet and Equal, while sucralose is the sweetener used in Splenda.

“We know that some consumers have concerns about aspartame, so this is a positive transition,” General Mills CEO Ken Powell said in a phone interview.

Although sucralose is also an artificial sweetener, Powell said it has greater acceptance among consumers.

The change comes as General Mills struggles to fix its Yoplait business, which has been upended by the popularity of Greek yogurt and the move toward ingredients people feel are natural.

Last year, retail sales for Yoplait Light fell in the “low double digits,” while full-calorie Yoplait showed improvement after General Mills replaced the high-fructose corn syrup in the brand with sugar, according to the company.

As for Yoplait Light, the Minneapolis-based company expects the reformulated cups to hit shelves by fall.

Mike Siemienas, a General Mills spokesman, said the new cups will say “Now no aspartame” and still have around 90 calories. He said the company considered a number of alternatives after hearing from consumers that “they wanted a product that did not contain aspartame.”

“This change does not compromise the amazing taste of Yoplait Light yogurt,” he wrote in an email.

In the meantime, General Mills is also working to make up ground in the Greek yogurt category, which it was late to enter. Executives say its Greek varieties of Yoplait now have 10 percent of the Greek market, which is still led by Chobani. Still, the Greek yogurt category has grown more competitive, with smaller players entering the market as well.

BY CANDICE CHOI, AP Food Industry Writer