The Clean Label trend is sweeping through the marketplace. Breakfast or late-night indulgences, sweets or savories, every brand, be it big or small, is opting to clean up their ingredient lists. Clean Label means a new product out of very few recognizable ingredients that consumers might use often at home. It promotes the prevention of artificial ingredients or synthetic chemicals.
However, Clean Label can have different meanings from one consumer to another depending on their expectations, perceptions, and wants. Various companies have trouble interpreting the true meaning of Clean Label.
The concept of “clean” is not based more on consumer perception than scientific evidence. While it seems simple, it is actually complex and unravels the deeper you dig. The most obvious aspect of clean label is to reduce the number of unidentifiable ingredients with long and difficult names perceiving to be artificial or synthetic in nature and serve no nutritional benefits.
Despite the lack of legal or commonly accepted definition, “Clean Label” is a wake-up call for the food industry to re-examine ingredients, formulations, and processing for consumers who are increasingly conscious about their food choices. It often refers to the number of ‘natural’ ingredients in the product. Consumers pay more attention to the list of ingredients, labels, and nutritional value.
As much as this movement has helped consumers understand the value of ‘all things natural’, it has also bewildered a large audience with respect to science and food. Consumers are skeptical about anything that sounds too scientific in their favorite food. For example, a product mentions containing tocopherol might confuse the users into believing it is an artificial substance but if the product mentions containing Vitamin E, there is no disbelief while it is the same thing. However, due to government regulations, certain ingredients are to be referred to as their scientific terms on the product.
Let’s take cereals for instance. About half of the ingredients on the side of the box are “actual ingredients” and the other half consists of various vitamins and minerals. However, when consumers don’t recognize names like “thiamine hydrochloride”, “ascorbic acid” or “niacinamide” which is Vitamin B1, Vitamin C and Vitamin B3 respectively they might consider the cereal as artificial.
Due to lack of familiarity with scientific terms, consumers might consider natural household staples complicated or not wholesome enough to satisfy their clean label inclinations. There is nothing wrong with pursuing clean label products but it is worth remembering that all of the ingredients in your food have been studied and declared safe for consumption by higher authorities.
Millennials follow trends immediately. Being a tech savvy generation, they have any information at their fingertips enabling them to look up the ingredients, compare products and look at their reviews online. Following the Clean Label trend better tailor product innovation, re-formulation, and marketing strategies.
Consumers are paying high attention to the composition of their food and how it is communicated in the packaging. Clean Label responds to the increasing demand for information and transparency by consumers. “Clean Labeling” is more of consumer demand than a trend to which the industry responds, emphasizing more on the aspect of food packaging and putting out information carefully.