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There is little doubt that consumers are more focused on their overall well-being than they’ve been in the past. They are more interested now about what’s in their food, how it’s made and where the ingredients come from, and they are seeking products with a “clean label” even though most of them have only a vague idea of what it means. In this month Nutricle, we will find out the language customers use in talking about “clean” products, determine an overall picture of clean label customer, and some key take-outs for food manufacturers.

What make a product “clean label”?

There is no standard definition for what qualifies as “clean label” so it may mean different things to different people. In fact, “clean label” is a nebulous concept with customers. A survey of Canadean Ltd. in 47 countries shows that 55% of the respondents are aware of this concept but among them 60% do not fully understand the exact meaning while 45% have never heard of it. And when asked to define “clean label” in their own language, respondents focus on ingredients, especially those they view as natural/organic/not artificial, and labels that are easy to understand are also important.

Customers are not food scientists, so they can be scared off by ingredients that sounds like they were created in a laboratory. For instance, if you mention your product contains Tocopherol, customers may react adversely, but if you say it contains Vitamin E, there is no reaction even though Tocopherol is Vitamin E. Clean label essentially means making a product using as few ingredients as possible and making sure those ingredients are items that consumers recognize or think of as wholesome-ingredients that they might use at home. To assist food manufacturers in the development of clean label products, ingredient makers are investigating alternatives to some common additives.

Clean label market is immature that means pricing has not yet equilibrated, information is not yet transparent and ingredient supply is still inconsistent. Therefore, how a processor engages to its suppliers is critical to its success in driving clean label projects across the business.

Sourcing and manufacturing are key elements of clean label products, but marketing the finished product is just as important. When introducing a clean label product, it is essential to make sure that the packaging design reflects the simple of ingredients and portrays the “clean” image of the product. Besides, a clear marketing message geared toward clean label that significantly effects on success of the product. Keep the language simple and relevant to customers.

Clean label is a challenge, yet it is also a great way for companies that want to promote their brands and connect to their customers by understanding who are buying the “clean” products to better tailor product innovation, reformulation and marketing strategies.

Who’s buying clean label products?

Interest in and purchasing behavior vary by age group. Millennial customers in general have been the key in driving the “clean label” movement. They are leading the way with respect to buying products they believe are better for them and their families. They tend to see “clean label” as aligned with organic and natural product concepts. Additionally, they are also interested in the exclusion of undesired ingredients.

Millennials are not just the largest generation, they are the most technologically savvy and highly connected. This demographic grew up online and favor brands that embrace technology. Label Insight data shows that 74% of customers turn to the internet to seek out answers when they do not find the information they are looking for on the product label. So the question brands need to ask themselves is when customers search their products online, what information will they find? If they are not proactive about this, customers will consume what they find on the internet.

What’s more, customers largely do not trust brands to accurately provide complete product information and will purchase and be loyal to the ones that are transparent about where and how products are made, raised or grow. And they are actually willing to pay more for it.

The future looks bright

Food industry trends come and go, but “clean label” is there to stay and the food industry will have to evolve with it. Companies that view it as an important part of doing business and take the opportunity to understand their customer’ clean label demand will be ahead of the game.

To learn more about Nutrispices' label-friendly solutions contact us.


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