Food Scientists Say Clean Labels Have Trade-Offs in Food Safety

To no surprise, two food safety and nutrition professors at Iowa State University believe there are significant trade-offs in cost and food safety for clean labels. The clean label is one of the most significant trends hitting the food and beverage industry. While there is no clear-cut definition, it is understood that clean label products do not contain additives or preservatives and typically have easy to read ingredients.

Why do Clean Labels Present Issues in Food Safety?

The two food scientists believe that not all food additives and preservatives are bad. Many of those hard-to-pronounce names are used to guard against pathogens and spoiling. While market demand is driving food companies to get rid of these additives, the scientists believe there should be a measured consideration for keeping some of these ingredients. The professors mentioned taking nitrates out of Hotdogs and deli meat as an example since their presence can help prevent clostridium botulinum bacteria.

Professors Ruth MacDonald, Ph.D. and Ruth Litchfield, Ph.D. believes that social media can take a lot of the blame for this hysteria around additives and preservatives. They insist consumers not to believe everything they read on social media and to take a deep dive into any research mentioned in posts.

clean label food safety consumers

How are Clean Labels Costing us More?

Label-readers have become fascinated with the “no high fructose corn syrup”  claim, but they are not looking closely at one is being replaced to sweeten the product. Many times companies are using tapioca syrup which is made from cassava, and typically more expensive. The professors say that the industry is developing all of these “cleaner” syrups like beet syrup, etc. and they are all sugar. They are no better than high-fructose corn syrup.

There seems to be a clear issue with what consumers expect and the reality of ingredients. Consumers want ingredients they understand, they want them cheap, they want them nutritious, they want them safe, and they want them to be beneficial. However, it is almost an impossible feat for food scientists. Consumers are more willing to accept technology in other aspects of their life but have now wholly shifted when it comes to food. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out as consumers become more educated about the science of food.

Inspired by

Almost 80% of Consumers Look For Products With a Fewer Ingredients

Most consumers these days think about their health and the environment whenever they are shopping. According to the Market Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) of 2017, shoppers are opting for products that have fewer ingredients and clean product labels. Activities related to this include buying plant-based, non-GMO, and organic products to show support to the planet and their health.

In the same study, 8 out of 10 consumers are now conscious, about their health and opt to buy products with fewer ingredients that they can understand and pronounce. Most consumers are not afraid to ditch their old grocery stores for shops that offer products with clean labels. This resulted in the popularity of farmer’s markets and health food stores.  As a result, many of retail supermarkets are now carrying clean label products to increase their market reach.  Examples of these retail giants include Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market, Target, and Price Clubs.

Millennials Opt For Clean Labels with Simple Ingredients

consumers want fewer simple ingredientsBut who drives the whole clean label movement? In the survey, Market LOHAS noted that millennials occupy most of the pie, at about 60%, while the older generation is not so keen on the advantages of clean labels.  The younger generation worries too much about the effects of using harmful ingredients in food while the older consumers stress the importance of allergy related label claims.

The thing is that more and more Millennials are health conscious because this is the generation of sick people. With the presence of fast-food restaurants and a plethora of processed junk food, it is easy for this generation to suffer from metabolic-related diseases like obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

What Drives Their Purchase

Almost 70% of Americans buy free-from food products mainly for health and nutritional reasons. In fact,  personal well-being is one of the most important driving factors that push people to buy products with clean labels. There is also a growing belief that free-from foods are also linked to having a healthy planet. For instance, cage-free poultry is believed to be better for the body and the world because the animals are grown in a humane way.

Another driving factor that pushes people to buy products with clean labels is the company’s ethics. In fact, 56% of the respondents claim that they refuse to buy from a company whose products are perceived to be produced by unethical means. This has also driven companies to adhere to better policies when it comes to manufacturing their products.

Consumption of products with clean labels is not only healthy and ethical, but it is also sustainable for the environment. While more expensive, people are willing to spend extra more to be able to buy products that they believe are not only good for their health but also the environment.

Inspired by

Shoppers Willing To Spend Extra For Ingredients They Recognize

Most shoppers today are more aware of the food and beverage products they buy. They opt for products made from organic and natural ingredients, and they value the transparency of product labels more than ever before.

In a recent survey conducted by Ingredients Communications, it revealed that 52% consumers are willing to spend 10% more on food products that contain ingredients they trust and recognize. The survey interviewed 1,300 consumers from North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific. The survey also noted that 18% of the respondents are willing to pay more than 10% for reliable brands.

Consumers from the United States are the ones most prepared to pay extra to 44% of the respondents responding yes. This is followed by shoppers from the Asia-Pacific including the Philippines (29%) and Malaysia (26%) indicating that Asia is an emerging market for food companies who want to improve their transparency and recognizability of the ingredients they use.

Co-Branding Allows Shoppers to Recognize Reliable Products Easily

So, what does this survey imply? It simply points to the importance of having clean labeling on food and beverage products. Consumers are becoming aware that many food companies are now using synthetic or artificial ingredients to make their products. These ingredients are now known to cause negative side effects to the body. The movement of going back to basics which include buying products made from all natural ingredients is becoming popular. Food manufacturers are using this movement to their advantage by rebranding their products and co-branding with their suppliers.

Co-branding has become hugely popular in the clean labeling movement. According to the director of Ingredient Communications, Richard Clarke, co-branding has been used in the tech industry to sell products like laptops. If the food industry uses it, it will be easier for the consumers to know which brands to trust because they have partnered with other reliable brands and ingredient suppliers. This will result in higher spending, repeat purchase, and stronger loyalty to the company.

While co-branding is a great way for shoppers to easily recognize the ingredients and brand of the product that they want to buy, it may lead to higher prices. This leaves food companies to shop around from among its co-branded suppliers to find ingredients that are also cheaper. Successful branding is still resulting in more revenues because shoppers are willing to pay more for products that are made from familiar ingredients.

Shoppers Make Informed Decisions When Shopping

While co-branding is a great strategy to make ingredients more recognizable to the consumers by partnering with equally reliable companies, there are other factors that influence the product choices and decisions of consumers. Today, many consumers are very critical about the decisions that they make when it comes to buying different types of products. With their savvy abilities and increasing awareness, they are able to recognize which ingredients are good and which ones are not. The ability to distinguish the good from the bad ingredients make consumers want to pay more.

Inspired by

Nielsen Says Consumers Are Now Ingredient Inspectors

With the advent of healthy living and clean eating, more people all over the world now practice due diligence when it comes to their food. In the recent Nielsen’s Global Health and Ingredient-Sentiment Survey, 70% of the respondents said that they make dietary choices to avoid health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. Nielsen has nicknamed these consumers the “ingredient inspectors.”


People Are Willing to Pay More for Healthy Foods

Around 68% of the respondents surveyed agreed that they are willing to pay more for healthy food and beverages. This was supported by U.S. retail sales data which indicated that the sales of health and wellness products are outpacing other types of fast-moving consumer goods.

According to Director Andrew Mandzy from Neilsen’s Strategic Health and Wellness Insights group, most consumers want to eat healthily. But they need the commitment from food manufacturers to create products that are made from simple and clean ingredients. Consumers depend on food companies to develop “better-for-you” products that are still convenient for their busy lifestyles.


Reasons for The Rise in Ingredient Inspectors

So why is there a rising trend in the food and wellness industry? Perhaps one of the reasons is food sensitivity or intolerance. The same survey conducted by Neilsen indicated that 36% of the respondents revealed that they opted for healthy foods because they are suffering from allergies or live with someone who does. The rise of lactose intolerance and seafood allergies was cited by 12% of the respondents.

Aside from food allergies, many consumers are actively excluding several ingredients from their diets. This motivation to eliminate certain foods can be brought about by religious influences or just small lifestyle decisions. Regardless, 64% of the respondents follow diets that prohibit certain foods or ingredients. For instance, 84% of the African and Middle Eastern respondents reveal that they follow a special diet as cited by their religion.  Respondents from Asia-Pacific scored 72% on the survey indicating that they support it for lifestyle and religious purposes. Most of them adhered to a vegetarian diet as reflective of their beliefs. Only 44%  of people living in North America and Europe cited motivation from religion to exclude ingredients in their food.


In the global survey, it was indicated that sugar is the most common ingredient that is eliminated by 31% of the respondents. Others limit their intake of carbohydrates and sodium for health reasons. Many of the interviewees are well aware of the effects caused by the foods they eat. In fact, 75% of people are anxious about the long-term impacts of incorporating synthetic ingredients into their food. Most of the respondents avoid foods that contain preservatives, coloring, and artificial flavors.

Consumers are demanding better food, and it’s up to food companies to supply this growing demand. It’s up to food companies to capitalize on the new opportunity and win customers with new healthy options.

Inspired by

Baby Boomers Want More Clean Label Products

Clean label is a new term used in the food manufacturing industry to depict food as only using simple and natural ingredients. The trend was expected to appeal to the younger consumers, but clean label products surprisingly appeal to the baby boomers too.

Baby boomers or those who belong in their fifties are the ones who readily patronize baby boomers. According to Dr. Elizabeth Sloan, president of the Sloan Trends, Inc., this particular demographic has both the time and money to buy clean label products.

Why Does It Appeal to The Boomers?

baby boomer clean label products real ingredientsConsumers have different reasons for why they opt for products with such labels. Younger people look for products that are all-natural, gluten-free, and organic. Baby boomers have an even simpler reason, and that is to avoid artificial additives in their products. There is an increasing interest for products with clean labels among baby boomers as this age group is starting to experience many health setbacks. The need for clean and natural food is essential to maintain good health for all ages.

In the research conducted by Sloan Trends, they investigated different products with clean labels and the age groups that patronize them. A whopping 76% of the correspondents who are 65 and above opt for products with clean labels for health reasons while contributors who are 50 to 64 gave a higher value for health at 75%.

The Domino Effect of Clean Label Products

There is a domino effect on this buying trend among older consumers. The report from the Organic Trade Association showed that the food sales of organic products in the United States rose to 11% in 2014 which is equated to $35.9 billion. Moreover, one-third of the consumers opts for organic products because they know that the products are all-natural and do not contain GMOs. Many consumers are confused when differentiating organic, non-GMO and naturally-flavored. For instance, a strawberry shortcake may not contain real strawberries but are just naturally flavored with strawberries.

The thing is, while clean labeling a buzzword among many consumers, it remains a very complicated topic that needs to be defined by the experts. The Food and Drug Administration coupled with the U.S. Department of Agriculture should work hand in hand to make it easier for consumers to understand the new labeling as well as the food that they are buying.

After all, clean labeling boils down to one thing: avoidance of artificial additives. Whether you are a boomer or millennial, people want real food made with real ingredients.

Inspired by

Simple Ingredients are Attracting Consumers to Natural Products

Many consumers are not only more health conscious but are also becoming more careful shoppers. While many consumers still don’t look at the label, a growing group is focused on natural food and beverage products with simple ingredients.

The Clean Label Trend

There is an increasing number of people opting for clean labels. A clean label is simplifying the list of ingredients in a particular food and beverage product. It is a guiding purchasing behavior for future consumers, but it is a challenging call for food manufacturers.

This particular trend follows the five-ingredient rule which means that products should contain fewer and more recognizable ingredients to become attractive to many consumers. As this trend has evolved over time, efforts have also been made by many food and beverage manufacturers to use simple ingredients, and ensure that the ingredients used are as natural as possible.

Natural Ingredients are Simple Ingredients in Consumer Minds

With a lot of food products marketed as containing natural ingredients, many consumers find it difficult to define what “natural ingredients” means. Unfortunately, many food products claiming to be natural either have legitimate claims or just use buzzwords. The agency responsible for the ingredients’ definitions is the Food and Drug Agency (FDA).

So what are natural ingredients? Food writer Michael Pollan defines such ingredients as those that consumers can easily pronounce and recognize. These ingredients should be as close to their natural form and should not be overly processed nor should they contain additives like dyes or artificial preservatives.

The Demand for Natural Food Products

Clean labels are very popular throughout the industry and the demand for simple ingredients is influencing the sales of many food and beverage products. Many believe this trend is the leading reason for the organic & natural foods industry projected growth to experience a 14% rise in its total sales by 2020.

Unfortunately, this trend has also produced a lot of confusion among the consumers. According to global consumer research firm Mintel, more than 37% of the consumers remains confused about the information indicated in food labels, while 38% are skeptical of the information provided by these companies.

The solution to this confusion is to uphold transparency within the food industry so that this trend will resonate with all consumers. But how do food companies maintain transparency? Aside from making food labels comprehensible by using simple language, companies must reformulate their products using natural ingredients. Instead of using artificial sweeteners, natural alternatives may be employed. Food manufacturing companies can also look into their packaging and opt for a more sustainable look, instead of using plastic or foil packs.

This trend provides a tremendous opportunity for brands to increase revenue but also to connect with consumers. The cherry on top is brands will be seen as more trustworthy if they adopt simple ingredients and create clean labels for their products.

Inspired by

Food Product Transparency Impacts Purchase Behavior

Consumers today are smarter, as they demand food product transparency when it comes to items they buy in the grocery store. The request for transparency is influencing the evolution of the food industry as it requires many food manufacturers to provide consumers accurate and detailed product information.

According to the 2016 Label Insight Food Revolution Study, most consumers value the transparency of goods since it forms some of the data points that they consider when making a purchasing decision. The report also indicated that most consumers do not trust the information provided because of the way many brands deliver it on their products. The study was conducted by Label Insight, a global leader in providing SaaS data solutions to empower the transparency between food brands and consumers.


What Did The Food Revolution Study Cover?

The study surveyed more than 1,500 consumers and identified how they made different food choices. The survey also covered consumer expectations from the food manufacturers in providing the product information. Recently, many users have developed high expectations when it comes to the transparency of ingredients in the food that they consume.

CMO of Label Insight Patrick Moorhead indicated that the high demand of food product transparency from the consumers is pressuring the industry players and even small food manufacturers to finally provide the information that the consumers require—not only to create better spending decisions—but also to avoid customer confusion and highlight many opportunities that food manufacturers have in innovating their products.


Why Is There a Need for Food Product Transparency?

Food product transparency solves different issues not only within the food manufacturing industry, but also to their consumers. The most important reason for transparency is to eliminate customer confusion. Label Insight’s report revealed that 81% of the consumers admitted to consumption of packaged food products that contained ingredients they do not recognize.

Confusion also affected the purchase decision of many consumers. In the study, 94% of the respondents admitted that they did not know the ingredients in their food, which makes it difficult to make an informed decision. In fact, 83% mentioned that companies that provide food product transparency are more valued by consumers which, in turn, promotes consumer loyalty. Consumers are more likely to switch to brands that provide detailed information on their products.


The Repercussions

Many retailers are pressed with high demands from consumers in terms of providing food product transparency. Food manufacturers cannot simply ignore such demands as many see their customers turning to their competitors. This movement presented many opportunities for emerging brands to gain a chunk of the market and secure loyalty from the dismayed or discouraged consumers.

Brands are always in a position to develop ways to improve the long-term relationship with their customers. Food product transparency is another form of the clean label movement, and it is essential to success over the next ten years.

Inspired by

Consumers Want Transparency in Nutrition Labels

Consumer awareness is increasing; they are now making demands that have never been seen in the food and beverage industry. Accessibility to information is driving this move as customers are now aware of how different ingredients affect their health. They are avoiding foods that can cause harm to their bodies as well as the environment. Consumer food companies must take action and provide more transparency in the nutrition labels on their products.


The Future of Nutrition Labels

Trends in consumer preferences were captured in a recent research study by Packaged Facts, “Nutritional Labeling and Clean Labels“. The study found that 87 percent of the customers reported looking at nutrition labels and a significant number of Americans actively seek out nutritional guidelines and information.

The study also found out that 67 percent of American consumers preferred to buy groceries which have simple and few ingredients. Almost the same percentage reported taking the ingredient statement into consideration when they are making decisions to purchase packaged food and beverages.

Clean Label Trend Promotes Product Overhaul

The FDA requires that companies who are manufacturing food and beverages to provide nutrition facts and labels. The companies are going a step further, prompted by the consumer trends; they are developing entirely new products which do not have artificial ingredients and food colors. They are now making products that are safe for consumers and provide information on the nutrition label, which will help them identify safe foods and beverages. The trends are pointing to the following: customers will see GMO ingredients off the shelves, and artificial colors and ingredients will no longer be part of traditional products. In the food world, the consumer is the CEO, and the trends dictate that food businesses will have to adapt to survive.

From Kraft Food Group to Nestle USA, the big players in the food and beverages industry are overhauling their production. Nestle USA made an announcement that they would stop the use of artificial flavors and colors in their chocolate candies. Tyson Foods is expected to eliminate the use of antibiotics on their poultry by late next year. Kraft Food Group just like Nestle USA plans to stop using artificial preservatives and colors in their products. Another company that has followed suit is Hershey; the company plans to give customers easy and simple ingredients statement, this will help the customers make easier and healthier decisions in the store.

Inspired by

Simple Ingredients is the Key to Clean Labels

Food companies are in desperation mode to find simple ingredients that make their products healthier while not impacting the taste. Many have chosen to fortify their products with synthetic vitamins, but is that the answer? No, we need vitamins and essential phytonutrients from food based sources like fruits and vegetables.