Delivering clean label to consumers

Shifting demands and concerns regarding food security, food shortage, good nutrition and authentic taste have propelled consumers to rethink how they choose their daily food and drink. Clean label has become an emotive buzz word in today’s food vernacular. Consumers desire better information to make better food choices. However, they are not equipped to do so as there is no single definition as to what clean label actually means. We caught up with Nanette Solan, Senior Insight Manager Kerry, to discuss how clean label can be made relevant and understood by the consumer.

Nanette Solan


Why do you think the clean label trend has resonated so much with consumers?
‘Our research shows that the clean label trend is driven by a consumer desire to understand what they are consuming. Consumers want to understand the ingredients that are being used, where those ingredients are sourced, and how their food and drink is being processed. This is, in part, a consequence of a wider social change that has seen consumers becoming more vocal and more engaged in the choices they are making. They are no longer willing to be seen as passive subjects.
Secondly, easy access to information, at times conflicting information, has made consumers more inquisitive and more open to changing their ways based on the information they consume. Thirdly, negative publicity featuring the food and drinks industry has eroded some of the trust that consumers had.
Together, this has brought about a situation where consumers think more about what they eat and drink than they have in the recent past, with a focus on ingredients, sourcing and processing.’

Is the growth of this trend set to continue in the long term?
‘Yes, younger generations are showing greater interest in the clean label trend and they are likely to continue displaying this interest as they age. This trend is no longer limited to a niche of society, but is widespread and will have a lasting effect on the industry.’

Is the consumer’s definition of clean label the same as the industry’s?
‘This question touches on one of the main problems of ‘clean label’: there is no single definition, not within the industry and not amongst consumers. Many in the industry approach clean label from a capability point of view: “what can we do?”. Instead, consumers are interested in the consequences of the choices they make: the consequences for themselves, primarily their enjoyment of food and drink and their health, but also the consequences for society and the environment, in terms of fair and ethical sourcing.’

What is the biggest challenge for F&B manufacturers when using clean label claims?
‘Ultimately, taste and enjoyment of food and drink are key. The industry will not be able to find claims that resonate if it doesn’t put the consumer perspective front and central.
At Kerry, we believe clean goes beyond ingredients. Food and beverage manufacturers need to go deeper into the food supply chain and look at sourcing, provenance, processing and freshness. There is a delicate balance between all of these that requires collaboration between manufacturers and the companies that supply and partner with them.
Secondly, the different regulatory systems add a level of complexity. Additionally, some elements that may have been considered ‘clean’ at one point, will move into being a hygiene factor. Reduction of fat, sugar and salt is a prime example of this.’

Which regions show the greatest engagement with clean label claims? Is there a particular age-group that is most attracted by these claims?
‘The interest in ‘clean label’ appears to be present across the world, but it is driven by North America and Europe. There are also some differences between countries: in France, for example, provenance resonates stronger than it does in other countries. Importance given to ‘clean’ is above average in Germany, whilst UK consumers claim lower familiarity and understanding of the term ‘clean’ than consumers from other countries. Younger age groups show a keener interest and understanding in clean, highlighting that clean has a long future.’

Be sure to catch Nanette Solon’s presentation ‘Clean label conundrum: delivering for the consumer’ at the Fi Europe 2017 Conference during the session on Clean Label & Natural Ingredients – Part 1 on Tuesday 28th November 2017, 10:50–14:00.