Cracking the clean label conundrum: Beneo discusses tapping consumer desire for fewer ingredients and improved nutritional profiles

By Oliver Morrison contact

- Last updated on GMT

Getty/cyan66
Getty/cyan66

Related tags: Clean label, reformulation, Beneo

There has been a global shift among consumers towards clean and clearer labels that promote natural claims, and a willingness to pay a premium for products that do so, notes functional ingredient manufacturer Beneo.

But ‘clean’ food doesn't necessarily equal ‘healthy’ food. What’s more, at least a third of the world’s population is affected by vitamin and mineral deficiencies. In the UK, around 20% of the population suffers from vitamin D deficiency, according to the British Nutrition Foundation, while about 42% of Americans are vitamin D deficient. Meanwhile, in an increasingly indoor, COVID-hit world, rates of vitamin D deficiency have climbed, warn scientists.

According to Beneo, however, the right ingredients can successfully tap consumer desire for both clear labels and improved nutritional profiles.

“Many consumers today are actively seeking out more information about the products they are consuming so they can make ethical and healthier purchasing choices,”​ Thomas Schmidt, Marketing Director at Beneo, told FoodNavigator.

Beneo’s latest innovations with rice starch, chicory root fibre and wheat protein ingredients are helping food and beverage manufacturers create clean and clearer labels, he says, and can also help improve nutritional profiles of applications. “For example, Beneo’s inulin and oligofructose are natural, non-GMO, clean label prebiotic fibres from chicory roots,”​ he elaborated. “They are two of the very few plant-based prebiotics and are used to improve digestive health, whilst also reducing a product’s calorie count by cutting sugar and fat in recipes.”

Clean label vs reformulation, the clean label paradox

But how do suppliers like Beneo meet the challenge of developing or introducing ‘newer’ nutritionally beneficial ingredient options whilst still keeping within the parameters of what will be acceptable to, or even preferred by, the consumer – i.e those deemed ‘natural’?

Schmidt explains that application experts working at the company’s new technology centre, combined with its market intelligence and consumer insights team, hold the key. “A case in point is the recent launch of our new organic waxy rice starch Remyline O AX DR,” ​said Schmidt. “It is the first of its kind to be brought to market, opening up new possibilities for product development.”

Beneo says rice starch continues to become ever more popular as consumers seek out natural, organic and local ingredients. That’s according to the 2019 FMCG Gurus report, which added consumers crave simplicity and transparency from product labels.

Beneo has cited other research suggesting rice is recognised by consumers as a familiar ‘cupboard ingredient’, that is ‘healthy’ and ‘easy to digest’, while 1 in 2 European consumers think chicory root fibre sounds natural. Over half (53%) of consumers have said wheat protein sounds ‘natural’ and 50% ‘healthy’.

“With rice being such an accepted and recognisable kitchen cupboard ingredient, Beneo has already worked with manufacturers on a wide range of recipe concepts,”​ added Schmidt.

These include everything from cream cheese, bakery creams, ice creams and tomato-based sauces, through to spoonable dressings and ketchups. New product concepts for Beneo’s rice starch portfolio also include rice and almond drinks, as well as an organic tumbled (phosphate-free) chicken breast recipe. The rice drink uses different rice ingredients such as rice starch, rice flour and rice syrup to obtain a dairy alternative beverage with smooth texture and an optimised flavour profile.

According to Schmidt, clean label rice starches provide a soft and creamy texture thanks to their small granule size when compared to other starches. “Depending on the rice variety used, rice starch obtains textures ranging from short to long, making it ideal for use in recipes such as puddings, flans and mousses, as well as in yoghurts and creamier desserts,”​ he said. “In addition, rice starch offers good shelf-life stability and freeze-thaw functionality.”

Greater interest in gut health among consumers

Schmidt notes that the pandemic is increasing the interest in Beneo’s inulin and oligofructose products, which it claims are natural, non-GMO, clean label prebiotic fibres from chicory roots.

“As consumers look to nutrition to help support their health, immunity is not surprisingly a key trend that is front of mind for many,”​ he observed. “With digestive health and a strong inner defence system closely linked in the minds of consumers, prebiotics are proving popular – particularly ones that have digestive health and overall wellbeing health claims. Beneo’s chicory root fibres inulin and oligofructose are clinically proven prebiotics.”

Beneo is also tapping the rising computer game trend among consumers

Interestingly, he reveals that COVID has increased the number of people playing videos games, and with it demand for Beneo’s low glycaemic carbohydrate Palatinose. This product has traditionally been well received by athletes in sports drinks, he explains, as its sustained energy delivery benefits their performance in endurance competitions and training.

However, this functional carbohydrate is finding a new market in the eSports community. According to market researcher Nielson, eSports generated more than $950m in global revenue in 2019, and the sector was forecast to grow by nearly 16% in 2020. However, this statistic might be even higher as the pandemic, believes Schmidt, has ‘triggered a video game revolution’. According to Nielsen, the number of gamers who say they are playing video games more now due to COVID-19 has increased since March 2020. The increase was highest in the US (46%), followed by France (41%), the UK (28%) and Germany (23%).

“The demands that gamers place on their energy intake are not that different from those that athletes have on the tracks,”​ Schmidt revealed. “They want to maintain energy and concentration during the game and perform to their best ability, without any loss in performance due to sugar crashes. This is where BENEO’s alternative sugar Palatinose is proving popular. It delivers full carbohydrate energy but in a sustained and balanced manner which avoids undesired sugar crashes. This is why it is seen as the ideal carbohydrate choice.”

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