Savvy consumers are asking more questions about how their food is made. Looking forward, products will need to satisfy a greater number of requirements to meet consumers’ and regulators’ demands as expectations for clean labels and healthy products evolve. We caught up withStephanie Mattucci, Global Food Science Analyst at MINTEL, to take a look at clean label trends and explore what the future holds for next generation clean label products.
What is the definition of clean label? How has it evolved in recent years?
While clean label is a term that is not formally defined, in general, clean label refers to products made with ingredients that are familiar to consumers, including ingredients they can recognize and pronounce. For some, these products are perceived as more natural and better-for-you. The core identity of a clean label product is has remained the same in recent years, however, clean label products are evolving to include more information about how and where products were made, in order to strengthen the association of clean label products with real food.
Do you think the understanding of what clean label is differs between the industry and consumers?
Clean label is a term the food industry has used for many years.Consumers’ concerns about the presence of undesirable ingredients in food and drink products has forced manufacturers to clean up ingredients lists in order to meet the demand for more natural and less processed products.While consumers may not ask for a clean label product outright, they are looking for products with clean label attributes. For consumers, clean label attributes can include buying products with ingredients they recognize, products free from artificial ingredients, or even foods that have been minimally processed. Natural and organic claims can also be part of a clean label product’s identity, for consumers and industry alike.
How do clean label claims compare to other marketing claims, both in terms of prevalence and popularity with consumers?
Clean label is not typically a claim you will see overtly mentioned on pack – although it has been done! Typically, you’ll see brands defining their products as clean label through the use of natural, organic, and free from claims, such as no additives or preservatives or free from artificial ingredients, for example. Other ways to communicate clean label includes emphasizing a limited number of ingredients used in the product or providing detailed information about how and where the product was made.
How will the clean label trend develop in the future?
In the future, brands with clean label products will need to satisfy a greater number of requirements to meet consumers’ and regulators’ demands as expectations for clean labels evolve.When developing a clean label product, multiple things must be considered, including packaging, production, ingredients -- and the product and brand’s core identity.Savvy consumers are asking more questions about how their food is made - makingsustainability, ingredient purity and sourcing, as well as the ethical treatment of workers and animals, important priorities for companies with clean label products to consider in the coming years.
What are your predictions for the F&B industry in general over the next 3-5 years?
As more companies commit to removing artificial ingredients, clean labels will become the expectation, not the exception. However, looking forward,it won’t be enough to just make claims – brands will need to be able to justify the claims they make and prove that they are truthful.