The shifting definitions of clean label

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Three-quarters of Europeans say they would be willing to pay a higher price for products made with recognisable or trusted ingredients. Pic: GettyImages/monkeybusinessimages
Three-quarters of Europeans say they would be willing to pay a higher price for products made with recognisable or trusted ingredients. Pic: GettyImages/monkeybusinessimages

Related tags: Tate & lyle, Clean label, Organic, Stevia

Traditionally, manufacturers focused on creating simpler and shorter ingredients lists to answer the consumer demand for clean label, but this is giving way towards formulating products that are perceived as inherently ‘natural’, writes Saquib Ramday, category director for Beverages, Bakery and Confectionery at Tate & Lyle Europe.
Saquib Ramday Tate & Lyle
Saquib Ramday

We have seen the demand for clean label products become a leading trend in recent years, as consumers seek foods with simple, wholesome ingredients they know and trust.

However, there isn’t one accepted definition of clean-label and the meaning of the term is evolving in line with consumers’ increasingly complex expectations.

Roughly one-third of consumers are looking to avoid food or drink that contains artificial ingredients, according to Lightspeed/Mintel, and a big driver of the clean label trend is catering to this growing market. In order to meet this, manufacturers have traditionally focused on creating simpler and shorter ingredient lists, which contain fewer additives and synthetic ingredients, with ingredient names that consumers know and understand.

We are now seeing a notable shift towards products that are perceived as inherently ‘natural’ and include claims such as ‘no additives or preservatives’ or ‘organic’.

‘Natural’ claims are now among the main drivers of consumer perceptions that products are ‘better-for-you’.  As a result, these claims are likely to become more and more prevalent on front-of-pack over the next few years.

While consumers are increasingly demanding more clean label products, we also know they are not prepared to compromise on the quality of the final product. Although ingredients are an important factor, taste is still the dominant factor impacting buying behaviour, according to proprietary consumer research by Tate & Lyle.

Although the clean label movement poses some challenges to manufacturers, it undoubtedly presents a huge opportunity for growth.

A 2015 Clean Label Study by Innova found that three-quarters of Europeans stated they would be willing to pay a higher price for products made with recognisable or trusted ingredients. As such, manufacturers should make sure they are ready to provide the solutions that meet this growing consumer demand without compromising on quality.

Demand for clean label in bakery

There is growing consumer interest for clean label across a range of categories and bakery is no exception.

In particular, clean label sweet baked goods such as biscuits and cakes are becoming increasingly popular, as well as clean label bread.

Egg is a vital component to a variety of baked goods that has a number of functional properties in the baking process, particularly in terms of structure and providing gloss and shine. In order to replace it, bakers must find clean label substitutes that can replicate its emulsification, gelification and aeration properties, without negatively impacting upon taste.

There’s an increasing amount of solutions available to manufacturers to help them replace egg and dairy products while maintaining taste and texture. The development of functional proteins has increased rapidly in the sector over the past two years, with a number of alternatives beginning to emerge that provide parity with egg functionality.

Tate & Lyle has spent many years developing egg replacement solutions, using plant-based proteins together with emulsifiers, starch and hydrocolloids, such as its Cesagum Locust Bean Gum. This completely natural gum is made from the seeds of the carob tree, acting as a thickening agent without adding any calories to the final product.

Beyond a trend

Clean label has evolved beyond a trend to be a baseline for companies – it is now the expectation among many consumers. While a broadly-accepted definition of clean label remains elusive, we know that every food and beverage company has its own specific criteria to attain a degree of transparency.

Tate & Lyle offers an extensive portfolio of ingredients and solutions that will help manufacturers across a host of sectors to meet different clean label needs.

Its portfolio of solutions are derived from natural sources, including starches, fibres, emulsifiers and sweeteners. For example, the company’s label-friendly Claria Starches can be labelled corn starch, while Promitor Soluble Fibre can be labelled as soluble corn fibre. As well as providing fibre-enrichment, this ingredients helps reduce calories in reduced sugar and fat products by rebalancing build and mouthfeel. Finally, Tate & Lyle’s portfolio of stevia sweeteners has been designed to help manufacturers to deliver the highest quality clean label-friendly products.

Related topics: Ingredients

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