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Clean label, the new normal

10/18/2017  By Jeannie Swedberg

Pick up an industry trade magazine and you’ll see article upon article declaring the clean label trend is no longer just a trend. It’s a consumer mandate. Ask the average consumer what they think about the clean label trend in food and more than likely you’ll get an uncomprehending stare. Don’t misunderstand this as confirmation that your average consumer doesn’t care about clean label food and beverage products—they just don’t call it that. ‘Clean label’ is an industry term not a consumer one.

 To consumers, clean label takes on many guises—from recognizable ingredients that might be found in their own kitchens to minimally processed products to ones with a short ingredient statement to small-batch or without ingredients perceived to be ‘artificial’ – which may or may not be derived from ‘artificial’ sources. ‘Natural’ –another undefined term is often equated with ‘clean,’ and so is ‘organic.’ Then there’s antibiotic-free, non-GMO, humanely raised, fair trade…the label declarations go on and on.  

To be honest, it doesn’t matter how people define ‘clean label.’ What matters is consumers are reading labels, and they want transparency. There’s a desire to know where and how food is made and what’s in it. Nearly half of American consumers choose local, natural and organic products when possible, according to Nielsen. (Natural Products Insider) And multiple studies reveal consumers are willing to pay more for clean label foods, which they perceive to be higher quality with better ingredients and oft times healthier. Perception is reality—and therein lies the opportunity. Case in point—the new Kind Fruit Snacks which tout only three ingredients on the label, which are all fruit. Simple, easily understood and familiar ingredients are attractive in food and beverage products in the new clean label environment.