Clean label: a global macrotrend with multiple meanings.

At Diana Food, we define clean label as short, simple and authentic ingredient lists; products that feature “low in” or “free-from” claims, organic products, and those that use minimal processing.

Consumers often struggle with quantifying the concept. According to Mintel*, "Clean and Simple" can be interpreted in many ways and is often misunderstood by consumers. It comprises different attributes such as natural, free-from claims, but also transparency about the origin of ingredients and the way they are produced.

*Mintel 2019_ What "clean" means for companies and consumers

 

Use clean ingredients to build consumer trust in ‘big food’

Consumers take their food and drink seriously, with 64% of French consumers, 85% of Chinese consumers, and 64% of US consumers agreeing they put a lot of thought into what they eat1. Consumers’ interest in what they eat presents an opportunity for brands, who can showcase the details of food and drink products from farm to fork as a tactic to build consumer trust in ‘big food’. However, many consumers are concerned about food ingredients, with only 10% of US consumers agreeing they are less concerned about ingredients in 2019 than a year ago2. Consumers’ interest in what they eat, coupled with their concern about food ingredients, should secure a bright future for natural food and drink ingredients that deliver clean labels. Replacing artificial additives with natural alternatives is fundamental to the clean label trend. Naturalness is very important to consumers when making their food and drink choices, and often more important than nutritional attributes. 39% of French consumers, 32% of New Zealand consumers, 48% of Vietnamese consumers agree that ‘natural ingredients’ is an important factor to them when shopping for food and drink3.

Clean ingredients can help to deliver foods with a healthier image

Additionally, many consumers also believe that natural foods are healthy, and 36% of UK consumers agree that foods which contain artificial ingredients cannot be healthy4. The clean eating trend is an extension of the clean label trend, as ‘clean’ has become the new healthy, as consumers definition of health is not limited to nutritional attributes.

For example, in Northern Ireland, 46% of consumers agreed that ‘clean eating’ (ie unprocessed, natural foods, no additives or preservatives) was ‘good for you’, and 29% agreed it was highly nutritious5. 81% of French consumers agree that natural foods are healthier than processed foods6. Consumer interest in clean labels, and clean eating, opens opportunities for ingredients that help to deliver attributes that consumers’ link to these different strands of the ‘clean’ trend.

Processing and agricultural techniques can become a part of clean label

In some markets, attributes linked to natural ingredients such as ‘no artificial colours’, are now commonplace, and an expectation, rather than a unique selling point. In such markets, food and drink brands must look beyond the immediate details of a products ingredients list to stay ahead of the clean label trend.

Consumer preference for minimally processed foods highlights an opportunity for ingredients that are produced or processed using less ‘industrial’ and more artisan or natural techniques. 27% of Irish consumers agree that ‘minimally processed’ makes a sweet or savoury spread healthy7. 44% of Thai consumers agree that processed meat labelled as ‘minimally processed’ appeals to them8, for example.

Consumers agreeing they put a lot of thought into what they eat
 

64%

US consumers

85%

Chinese consumers

64%

French consumers

Look beyond the ingredients list when delivering clean labels

Technology-based solutions like blockchain offer almost limitless ‘space’ to showcase the entire supply chain, from field to fork, to consumers. In addition to ingredients like colouring foods that meet consumer aspirations for clean label, there is an opportunity for brands to offer consumers ‘full disclosure’ of the less visible parts of ingredient production systems. 62% of French consumers are more likely to trust a fruit and veg brand if the packaging includes farming details (eg farming technique)9, and 35% of US consumers strongly agree they want more transparency in food and drink ingredients10.

Consumers, ever extending their critical eye, should be reassured by ingredients that are free from ‘unwanted substances’. 53% of Chinese consumers agree their definition of 'all natural' is that ingredients are not from contaminated places11. 25% of UK consumers buy ethical food and drink to avoid consuming unwanted ingredients/substances (eg pesticides, antibiotics etc)12, and 64% of German consumers agree the potential for micro-plastics in tap water is concerning13. Consumers concern over ‘unwanted substances’ suggests an opportunity for food ingredients that are produced without ‘fillers’ or ‘carriers’, as examples.

From ingredients that deliver clean labels, to brands with a clean conscience

In markets where clean label is becoming an expectation, not a selling point, producers and brands can focus on promoting the 'clean conscience' of the brand and company, promoting ‘clean and green’ initiatives and ways of working to consumers. Producers and brands can identify ways to help consumers to eat for the health of the planet, as well as their own health.

Many consumers believe that natural ingredients and foods are not just better for their own health, but better for the health of the planet. 57% of US consumers agree that natural/organic foods are safer for the environment than conventional foods14. In addition to ingredients and agricultural systems that support the health of the planet, producers and brands can tap into the many ethical interests of consumers that relate to food and drink production, in order to communicate their ‘clean conscience’ to consumers. For example, 40% of Australian consumers agree that ‘supporting local suppliers’ is an ethical factor influencing their food and drink choices15. 36% of Mexican consumers agree that ‘minimising pollution during production’ is an ethical factor that influences their food and drink choices16.

How Diana Food can support you to clean your labels

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Our Pure range 100%

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Organic range

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Our natural colors

1 Base: China: 1,000 internet users aged 18+, US: 1,000 internet users aged 18+, France: 1,000 internet users aged 16+. Source: China: KuRunData/Mintel, US and France: Lightspeed/Mintel.
2 Base: US: 2,000 internet users aged 18+, Source: US: Lightspeed/Mintel.

3 Base: France: 1,000 internet users aged 16+, New Zealand: 1,000 internet users aged 18+, Vietnam: 1,000 internet users aged 18+. Source: France: Lightspeed/Mintel, New Zealand: Dynata/Mintel, Vietnam: Rakuten Insight/Mintel.
4 Base: UK: 2,000 internet users aged 16+, Source: Lightspeed/Mintel.
5 Base: 650 NI internet users aged 16+. Source: Toluna/Mintel.
6 Base: France: 1,000 internet users aged 16+, Source: Lightspeed/Mintel.
7 Base: 1,335 RoI internet users aged 16+ who have used butter, butter like spreads or sweet/savoury spreads in the last three months. Source: Toluna/Mintel.
8 Base: Thailand: 1,500 internet users aged 18-45+, Source: Dynata/Mintel.
9 Base: France: 2,000 internet users aged 16+, Source: Lightspeed/Mintel.
10 Base: US: 2,000 internet users aged 18+, Source: Lightspeed/Mintel.
11 Base: China: 3,000 internet users aged 18-49, Source: KuRunData/Mintel.
12 Base: UK: 1,663 internet users aged 16+ who are aware of but have not bought food and drink with at least one ethical label/certification, Source: Lightspeed/Mintel.
13 Base: Germany: 889 internet users aged 16+ who have drunk and bought bottled water in the last 3 months, Source: Lightspeed/Mintel.
14 Base: US: 2,000 internet users aged 18+, Source: Lightspeed/Mintel.
15 Base: Australia: 1,000 internet users aged 18+, Source: Dynata/Mintel.
16 Base: Mexico: 1,000 internet users aged 18+, Source: Offerwise/Mintel.

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