Guest article

Looking beyond the (clean) label

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Wellbeing is a key long-term purchasing behaviour driver giving food producers a growing – and profitable – opportunity to push the boundaries. Pic: Beneo/123rf
Wellbeing is a key long-term purchasing behaviour driver giving food producers a growing – and profitable – opportunity to push the boundaries. Pic: Beneo/123rf

Related tags: Beneo, Clean label

The term clean label has yet to be clearly defined, but it is generally agreed it refers to foods that are free from artificial ingredients and are minimally processed. As an increasing number of consumers now expect clean label as standard, Myriam Snaet, head of Market Insights and Consumer Intelligence at Beneo discusses the next step for bakery and snacks manufacturers.

Many consumer surveys have reinforced the message that clean label products appeal to all consumer groups. One in two consumers (18-70 years old) look at the ingredients list on new products before buying, according to Beneo’s 2018 Clean Label Consumer Research 2018, conducted by Haystack in Germany, UK and the US.

A Health Focus International Global Trend Study in 2018 found that one in three consumers said they have increased their research on ingredients over the past year.

The importance of the label cannot be underestimated. Therefore, it is not surprising that manufacturers responded to this increasing label scrutiny, with Mintel GNPD 2020 figures showing one in three new products launched in 2019 featured a ‘natural’ claim.

With clean label products fast becoming the ‘norm’, how can manufacturers continue to make their bakery and snack products stand out?

According to Mintel’s director of Innovation and Insight David Jago, a key driver for consumer spending will be feeling good.

“Wellbeing is no longer about simply wanting to look after oneself in broad terms, nor is it about the extremes of a total lifestyle change or commitment to an intense regime,”​ he said.

“Instead, a holistic, longer-term approach is becoming a key motivator of consumer behaviour, underpinned by convenience, transparency and value.”

Consumers want to make ethical as well as healthier choices. So, in addition to understandable ingredients lists, they want their products to promote good health, offer a sustained energy boost, be low in sugar and be created from sustainable sources, among other things.

Stand out from the crowd

Producers are increasingly turning to functional ingredients providers to help them differentiate their products and keep consumers coming back for more.

The main issue is that any product reformulation often brings with it a range of functional and technical challenges. However, a health and nutrition survey by FMCG Gurus in 2019 found 54% of younger consumers (18-24 years old) are prepared to pay a premium for healthy foods, so there is a significant opportunity for those manufacturers who can work with a functional ingredients provider to blend health, indulgence, sustained energy delivery and clean label credentials in attractive, innovative ways. 

Put into practice

A key focus for consumers today is to reduce the amount of sugar in their diets.

However, delivering cleaner label, sugar-reduced indulgent bakery products is linked to many technical challenges, such as maintaining sweetness, appearance, texture, crunch, colour and dough handling properties.

Significant progress in this area is already being made. For example, Beneo’s experts have developed a 30% sugar reduced cookie recipe that – following consumer texture and sensorial evaluation – showed that taste and crunchiness were the same as the full sugar variant. The cookies were also higher in fibre and cleaner in label.

The Beneo-Technology Centre is also focusing R&D efforts on its organic and clean label rice starches portfolio and has some new solutions in the pipeline. A wide range of clean label recipe concepts are being worked on at present with food producers, including cream cheeses and bakery creams.

With wellbeing being a key long-term purchasing behaviour driver, there is a growing – and profitable – opportunity for food producers willing to push the boundaries. 2020 is the start of a not only a new decade, but a new chapter in the evolution of all things clean label.

Related topics: R&D, Ingredients, Convenience, Health

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