Kerry is a taste and nutrition development company, working with several major US CPG brands.
Clean label is ‘muddy water’
Schroeder, during a presentation at Snaxpo (April 1-4) held in Savannah, Georgia, noted most American consumers know little about clean label, even though it is an emerging trend within the snack food industry.
“Consumers are demanding it, but the water is muddy,” she said.
A recent survey conducted by the market research firm Canadean showed a little over 30% of the global respondents said they knew what clean label means. By comparison, almost 50% of the US consumers were not familiar with the term.
The survey further noted consumers define clean label based on multiple criteria, including packaging, ingredients, processing and agricultural practices.
“They all make sense, but that doesn’t help us define what clean label really is,” Schroeder said.
Why are consumers demanding it?
Schroeder said there are two major dynamics going on among shoppers, including those who are naturally health-conscious and those who have basic knowledge about nutrition. These groups are demanding for more food transparency.
“They might be coming from a similar place from a consumer perspective, but they’re not necessarily the same thing,” she said.
“You can have a very clean label product that can also be extremely indulgent, full of saturated fat. That’s not healthy per se, but everything in it could be crystal clear. And vice sera.
“When ‘organic’ expanded beyond the produce aisle, there was a perception that if a product is organic, it’s automatically healthier. But you can have plenty of organic-certified products that are not nutritious and healthy,” Schroeder continued.
“We do see a lack of trust on the consumer perspective of big brands when it comes to clean ingredients… but I think there should be a concerted effort across, not just food manufacturers, but suppliers to bring their voices to the table.”
Dairy’s critical role in clean label
Dairy is “well positioned” to compete with other ingredients in the clean and healthy snack space, Schroeder said.
“When we think about whole food’s identity, consumers find it easy to identify foods such as milk, cheese and butter. Dairy is also able to deliver all consumer demands including protein, organic and non-GMO, as well as taste.”
A study done by Midwest Dairy Association in 2016 found consumers inherently see dairy as healthy and natural, and 30% said they considered milk to be one of the best sources for vitamins and minerals, Schroeder mentioned.
“It’s worth saying that dairy is not new to the snack category, but if we think about the evolution and consumer expectations of dairy, and the fact we can deliver on things like sustainability, organic, etc., the game will be changed,” Schroeder said.
Kerry showcased several dairy-based snack prototypes during Snaxpo this year, including cheesy extruded puffs as well as peach snack mix made with yogurt coating.