Innovating in clean label

The main challenge manufacturers face in keeping up with clean label is adapting their products alongside evolving consumer demands. Attention to sensory appeal, including texture, will be vital for the industry to adopt. We interviewed Davy Luyten, Marketing Manager EMEA at Ingredion ahead of his presentation on this topic.



Why do you think that the clean label trend has been so persistent?
‘Our consumer research suggests that the clean label movement is becoming increasingly mainstream and is unlikely to lose momentum in the coming years. Its enduring appeal is due to a variety of reasons. One is the continued advocacy of healthier lifestyles coming from the health industry, the press, social media and other influencers. Secondly, the positive response to this greater emphasis on health and its adoption among consumers means that clean label has gathered momentum. Consumers are concerned about the impact of what they eat and drink and are adopting healthier habits in response. This, in turn, is making manufacturers sit up and take notice and adapt their products to satisfy these needs and expectations.’
‘Clean label’s long-term appeal will be boosted by its advocacy of transparency. Our latest research shows that consumers want to see more information about what is in food and drink products and are using technology to help them do so. At a time when mobile devices, apps and websites are informing decisions more than ever, consumers will expect more visibility of what they eat and drink in the coming months and years.’

Are there any products or categories in particular that are seeing a lot of clean label innovation?
‘It’s becoming more difficult to define one application that is affected by clean label over others. This is because so many products are now involved in the trend and the expectation that products will carry clean and simple labels is becoming commonplace. But in the past, clean label innovation has certainly impacted wet applications, specifically savoury. This includes soups, chilled and frozen ready meals, sauces, dressings and dairy, where there has been demand in particular for clean label texturisers.’

How do you think consumers understand ‘clean label’? Does it differ from the industry view?
‘Clean label is definitely understood in different ways by consumers and the industry. The most obvious way is terminology. It’s unlikely that the average consumer would have an awareness of ‘clean label’ as a trend that affects and guides the industry. What they certainly do know however is what it encompasses. They seek simple terminology on labels and have a strong awareness of terms such as ‘no preservatives/additives’, ‘E number-free, ‘natural’ or ‘all-natural’. Consumers are also more concerned with what their food contains, rather than what has been removed from it.’
‘In terms of how the industry understands clean label, there is a general view that products containing additives such as E numbers are modified and therefore have the potential to be perceived negatively by consumers. There is also caution about how ingredients such as modified starch, artificial flavours, colours and anything that sounds like a chemical or artificial ingredient will be perceived by consumers. This includes emulsifiers, texturisers and preservatives.’

What is the biggest challenge of developing a clean label product?
‘The main challenge manufacturers face in keeping up with clean label is adapting their products alongside evolving consumer demands. There’s a real need to satisfy an ever-diverse range of diets, trends and lifestyle choices while assuring consumers that ingredients are simple and recognisable.’
‘In order to design or reformulate products to meet changing demands, manufacturers must add, take away or replace ingredients to boost their products’ nutritional profiles while retaining authenticity - i.e. texture, flavour and visual appeal. This is particularly problematic when it involves adjusting the recipe of long-standing products that hold sentimental value for consumers.’
‘Cost control is another, often overlooked aspect that needs to balance for manufacturers as, of course, their products have to be affordable. There are numerous pressures to manage, including fluctuating raw ingredient prices, optimising processes and minimising waste.’

How do you see the clean label trend developing over the next 12-18 months?
‘Our ‘2020: Future of Simple, Natural and Clean Label Food’ report, developed in collaboration with industry experts, makes several predictions for the years ahead. It concludes that clean label will continue to be a key trend for the food industry in 2018 and beyond. As healthy lifestyles and simple labels increase in importance for consumers, the emphasis on clean label in the food and beverage industry has only strengthened.’

What are your predictions for the industry in general over the next three to five years?
‘Our ‘2020: Future of Simple, Natural and Clean Label Food’ report indicates that over the next four years, labels will be significantly simplified. This will be a result of consumers becoming saturated and overwhelmed by the volume of marketing-led information and product stories on labels. The indication is that they will trust simplicity and transparency over exaggerated descriptions.’
‘Technological advances are also pivotal to the future of the industry as mobile devices, apps and websites offer consumers more information on product content.’
‘DNA profiling may become more prevalent and eventually routine. This would enhance consumers’ understanding of how they can achieve optimal health, allowing them the choice to take greater control over their diets. Because of this, we could see increasing numbers of people cutting gluten and lactose from their diets and adding fibre, vitamins and protein.’
‘Authenticity is another key consumer trend that will influence the industry. This is the idea that food shouldn’t appear perfect and that products manufactured on a larger scale can still retain an individual, homemade feel. This will result in higher demand for foods that appear less uniform, are locally sourced, sustainable and contain recognisable ingredients. In order to achieve these qualities, attention to sensory appeal, including texture, will be vital for the industry to adopt. Offering a finely-tuned sensory experience - such as the creaminess of a mayonnaise, the crunch of a rice cake or the smell of a bakery product - is an opportunity for manufacturers to differentiate products and offer consumers memorable and immersive experiences.’

Be sure to catch Davy Luyten’s presentation ‘Innovating in clean label’ 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.