Defining clean label will only add more confusion, says Kerry

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

Kerry has set up a clean label frame work, focusing on ingredients, nutrition and sustainability. Pic: tiffany terry
Kerry has set up a clean label frame work, focusing on ingredients, nutrition and sustainability. Pic: tiffany terry
Kerry said defining clean label on a legislative level would only further confuse consumers already inundated with claims and certifications such as non-GMO, natural and organic.

“On-pack claims are definitely an indicator of what clean label is, but the connotation of the term keeps changing as far as product formulation goes, making it difficult for legislators to give it a definition,”​ said Soumya Nair, Kerry’s director of marketing insights.

Nair added the term is “too tough”​ to be regulated, and that is why claims such as healthy and natural have caused controversy in the food industry.

“While we as an organization cannot comment on how or when legislative bodies will define clean label, what we can do is work to formulate clean ingredient offerings and help to educate our customers about what their consumers are asking for,"​ she said.

“We’re actually looking at all the labels under the clean label umbrella. Some of them matter more, like organic in certain categories, than non-GMO or gluten-free,” ​Nair added.

Initial framework

Kerry came up with its own framework for clean label recently through a “consumer-centric approach”​ after several years of market research, Nair told BakeryandSnacks.

The framework includes three main areas of consumer expectations: ingredients, nutrition and sustainability.

According to the company, ingredients remain the most critical, with approximately 40% of consumer perceptions influenced by specific ingredients. Almost 40% of consumers are driven by nutritional value (that is, the removal of sugar, addition of protein, etc.).

Sustainability only accounts for 20% of consumer perception on clean label, yet it is increasingly important.

However, the perception of clean label in specific food and beverage categories vary, with higher relevance in staple diet items such as frozen meals and baked breads, Nair noted.

For example, baby boomers ranked the importance of clean label in baked breads 16 points higher than in savory snacks. While Millennials also expressed high importance for clean label baked bread options, they ranked clean label in all other categories as almost equally important (sausages, snacks, ice cream, shelf stable sides and frozen meal).

The Irish company said the top five ingredients consumers do not want to see in their breads include high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, cellulose, phosphates and mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids.

Latest ingredients for cookies and cupcakes

Under its clean label framework, Kerry launched a new line of toppings for cookies and cupcakes called Simply Sprinkles at the Baking Tech Conference in Chicago last month.

The product range includes various colors of decorettes, nonpareils, sequins, shapes and sugars made without artificial ingredients, dairy or partially hydrogenated oils.

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