The Clean Label Movement

The Clean Label Movement 

As a food labeling company, we are all about anything and everything that has to do with, well, food labeling. Over the last several years we have observed and reported that consumers are demanding more from their food products, and this expectation encompasses everything from the ingredient list to the product packaging. According to a study released via white paper by Kerry Foods, the demand for clean label products is growing as consumer expectation becomes more specific. According to this study, based on the buying and lifestyle habits of over 2100 participants, 90% read the nutritional labels on food products before purchasing and nearly half of them are unsatisfied with the amount of information provided as it pertains to their dietary and lifestyle needs. 

The clean label movement is such a poignant consumer trend that it is changing the way that food manufacturers create their products and how the FDA regulates them. 

Defining a “Clean Label” 

According to the Institute of Food Technologists, a clean label is a phrase recognized throughout the food industry, academics, manufacturers and even the FDA based on this industry changing consumer trend. As stated by the Chief Science and Technology officer of IFT: 

“Essentially, clean label means making a product using as few ingredients as possible, and making sure those ingredients are items that consumers recognize and think of as wholesome—ingredients that consumers might use at home. It seeks out foods with easy-to-recognize ingredients and no artificial ingredients or synthetic chemicals, and it has become associated with “trust” with manufacturers of food. “

In the same study conducted by Kerry Foods, it emerged that consumers in the united states favored the health benefits of the food products they are consuming over taste. This means the use of artificial ingredients like processed sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup),  artificial colors and preservatives are on a steady decline in popularity and consumers are preferring more simple ingredients to lend color and flavor to their food. 

Clean Labeling and Product Success

It was only a few years ago that consumers expressed a willingness to switch from a brand they were familiar with to a less familiar brand with a more detailed product description using recognizable ingredients. Now, as it stands, 3/4’s of United States consumers feel that way. 

So what does this mean for the food manufacturer? For one, it means that retail grocery stores are hearing the consumer cry and have become more discriminatory about what they will allow on their store shelves. 

Unacceptable Ingredients

The appeal of your product to retailers will always be centered around how it reaches the customer. After all, supply and demand is what drives our economy in the first place. In response to consumer trends around clean food labeling, many retailers have opted to ban synthetic chemicals all together and compile what Whole Foods likes to call their “Unacceptable Ingredients List”, chain restaurants like Panera have adopted the same practice, their banned log is referred to as their “No-no list”. 

As a result, platforms like GoCleanLabel have been created to keep food-preneurs and food companies aware of what retailers are allowing. 

The Clean Label Movement

The Clean Label Movement has made its’ way to retail. Do you know what is on your local retailer’s “No-no list”? If not, you may be missing out on a possible retail partner.

Clean Food Criteria

Consumer trends have spoken and the key to creating a successful product lies within these components: 

  • Nutrition 
  • Acceptable Ingredients 
  • Functional Ingredients 
  • Taste 
  • Sustainability

Nutrition- is the food coming from natural ingredients

Acceptable ingredients- does the product contain recognizable ingredients that are good for me? 

Functional Ingredients – do the ingredients in this “clean food product” benefit my health in some way? (Can they boost my immunity, decrease inflammation, make me healthier?)

Taste- can a product without artificial ingredients and preservatives still deliver on flavor? 

Sustainability – is this product good for the environment? 

This Millennial-driven, clean label movement doesn’t only require that the answer to the aforementioned questions be a resounding “yes” but also that it’s reflected in the label claims made on the product packaging. Consumers are looking for the “flashing lights” alerting them that their product is non-gmo, doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients or high fructose corn syrup. Potential customers want more from their food products, down to clear and concise labeling. 

Is your product ready? 


Interested in getting a second opinion on the ingredients in your product recipe? LabelCalc is the industry leading nutrition analysis and food labeling software for the food and beverage industry. We have a Registered Dietitian on standby waiting to hear from you. Contact us today!

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