How Less, in the Eyes of Consumers, Has Become More

Food and beverage consumers seem to want it all; taste, texture, excitement, price point, nutrition, and natural ingredients. One trend currently eclipsing all others is consumer demand for ‘clean label’ products. But not everyone understands the term: 47% of women and 42% of men do not know what ‘clean label’ means, according to GlobalData.

It is generally accepted that clean label is products are made simply, with limited and easyto-understand ingredients. Other themes include natural ingredients, transparency, sustainability in packaging and supply lines and limited processing. Suppliers, as well as food and beverage manufacturers, experience complications with ‘clean label’ because there is no set definition. It can mean different things to different people.

Manufacturers have responded to this growing consumer demand with varying solutions. Some manufacturers get to include certifications like “free-from”, “organic,” and “non-GMO” on their product labels. However, this approach can create ‘claim fatigue’. These ambiguous claims with little support or no concrete definition, have a tendency to create even more customer confusion. For example, a certain subset of consumers believe words such as, “fresh”, “natural”, and “organic” on a label means the product is more nutritious than a product without those descriptions.

Another approach is to feature labels with short and recognizable ingredient lists. Consumers aged 35-44 are the most aligned to this clean label definition, which supports the idea that the ‘fewer ingredients is better’. Preferred products in this category include as few ingredients as possible. The approach appeals to the consumer craving ingredients that appear less-processed by resembling ‘from scratch’ recipes that they could put together with items in their cupboards.

The push for minimally processed products in the early 2000s, has grown exponentially in the last 10 years. Due in part to Millennial’s and Generation Z’s health-consciousness, this global transition from artificial to natural has been impacted by core lifestyle changes and food habits, health concerns, financial security, and consumers’ heightened awareness of food products. Innova Market Insights estimates 75% of U.S. consumers claim to read the ingredient labels of food products, while 91% contend those with ingredients they recognize are healthier. Companies like General Mills, Campbell Soup, Nestle, and Hershey have initiatives to replace artificial colors and flavors with natural alternatives, as well as decrease the amount of ingredients in their products.

The initiative and responsibility of producing the cleanest and most natural products, in part, falls on the shoulders of ingredient suppliers. According to the Food Insider Journal, clean label was predicted to be the number 1 trend in 2017; “as demand for total transparency now incorporates the entire supply chain, as a clean label positioning becomes more holistic.” Supporting information from Allied Market Research Report says that the global artificial segment is expected to decline at a CAGR of -0.7% whereas natural flavors is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.9%.

Flavor companies have joined the clean label conversation and are looking for solutions, not just for customers – the food and beverage manufacturers – but for their end consumers. As a solution to the clean label movement, Synergy Flavors recently launched TRU Stories, a clean label portfolio of products created to be as Transparent, Responsible, and Unblemished as the consumer desires. At the end of the day, customers value authentic tastes and clean labels. Join us as we get closer to nature.