‘Cracking the Clean Label Code’ was commissioned by ingredient provider Ingredion and conducted by MMR Research Worldwide using 1,000 respondents in the UK and Russia.
The study states that, on average, 30% of consumers are now actively seeking products with some form of clean label claim, while 70% of those purchasing dairy and bakery products are aware of clean label claims and say these influence their buying decision.
Cakes can benefit from clean label
The report indicated consumers are not only seeking ‘natural’, ‘additive-free’ alternatives for staple products such as bread and yogurt, but also that categories such as dairy desserts and cakes can benefit from clean label claims.
Mona Schmitz-Hübsch, European marketing manager at Ingredion, said, “Our research tells us consumers are actively looking for products with clean label claims.
“By providing information on the impact of different types of clean label claims on consumers, this report helps food manufacturers to successfully develop new products, and reformulate existing ones, in the dairy and bakery clean label space.”
The study noted that a large segment – more than 75% - of consumers were suspicious of e-numbers. Replacing e-numbers with more recognizable and acceptable kitchen cupboard-style ingredients should be a priority for food manufacturers, it notes.
A short list with authentic-sounding ingredients significantly increases purchase intent. In both the dairy and bakery sectors, understandable terminology was sought, with the shorter ingredient list perceived as healthier or more ‘home-grown.’
Across all regions and product categories, the report states, consumers prefer familiar products and language such as flour, corn flour, protein and fiber.
In the bakery category, artisan breads made with high-quality, minimally-processed ingredients are mentioned, with clean label products perceived to taste better. The report says that a natural positioning is clearly associated with improved freshness.
For bakery, quality ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil were perceived as a positive.
The power of ‘natural’
In dairy, absence of additives was important, as was functional ingredients such as dietary fiber. The word ‘natural’ was also seen as positive. Both UK and Russian consumers show significantly higher purchase intent for desserts with a ‘natural’ claim compared to no claim, the report states.
The study showed that more than 50% of UK and 90% of Russian consumers would switch their favourite dessert brand for a brand that carries a ‘natural’ claim.
Overall, within the dairy and bakery sectors, ‘natural’ or ‘no additives’ claims are enough to make 63% of consumers switch brands.
Products that are marketed as more ‘natural’ are perceived to taste better and have healthier origins.
In the bakery category, UK consumers show significantly higher purchase intent for foods such as bread or desserts with a natural positioning.
Combination of factors
The report states that a secondary claim can also help make products more appealing.
For example, it points out that a primary claim like ‘natural’ can be accompanied by claims such as ‘no preservatives’ or ‘no additives’.
Further supporting claims that could influence purchasing decisions alongside a primary claim include ‘wholegrain’, ‘locally sourced’, and ‘high in’ or ‘source of’.
Taste still matters
The Cracking the Clean Label Code report also found that, while consumers perceive clean label products to be healthier, this could not be achieved at the expense of taste or texture. Great-tasting products that deliver the right eating experience remained a high priority.
“In dairy, yogurts are considered both as health foods and an indulgent treat. The challenge for manufacturers is to deliver clean label desserts that taste great and offer the creamy, thick texture the consumer expects.
“At the same time, sweeteners and artificial colouring are, in the main, unacceptable in dairy. This is where functional ingredients that support a ‘natural’ or ‘all natural’ positioning can meet the clean-label requirements of food manufacturers,” Schmitz-Hübsch added.
“With over half of all consumers surveyed saying they would switch their favourite dessert brand for one with a natural claim, the opportunity already exists,” she said.
The report also identified six shopping personalities, with almost a third of all respondents categorised as shopping personalities that have a high propensity to make product selections on the strength of favourable on-pack claims.
To download the full report, click here.