Clean label

The evolution of the clean label trend to unabridged transparency

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

The clean label concept is evolving from just a simple ingredients list to encompass all stages of the process. Pic: GettyImages/lemono
The clean label concept is evolving from just a simple ingredients list to encompass all stages of the process. Pic: GettyImages/lemono

Related tags Tate & lyle Bakery Clean label Transparency Supply chain ingredients list natural additive Stevia Fibre

The clean label concept is beginning to move beyond just a simple and smaller ingredients list, with consumers paying greater attention to sourcing, production and packaging.

The demand for clean label has become a leading trend in recent years – today, 80% of Europeans claim the ingredients list drives the purchase decision – and it shows no signs of slowing down.

There isn’t one accepted definition of clean label, but it typically relates to ingredients that consumers recognise with fewer additives and synthetic trimmings. A Tate & Lyle survey last year found that 90% of Europeans said they look out for simple or fewer ingredients, confirming that clarity in labelling is as important as it has ever been.

“For bakery manufacturers, the clean label trend presents significant opportunities,”​ said Greet Vandeputte, category development manager for Bakery at Tate & Lyle.

For starters, three-quarters of customers in Europe state they would be willing to pay a higher price for products made with recognisable or trusted ingredients.

“However, the notion of clean label is beginning to encompass much more than just the ingredients list. Consumers are paying greater attention to the supply chain, including sourcing, production and packaging. Manufacturers must now take this into account when it comes to their clean label formulations.

Natural claims

Vandeputte added, “We are seeing a notable shift towards products that are perceived as inherently ‘natural’. Within this, there are some ingredients that are key to influencing purchasing decisions.”

Natural flavourings are growing in demand.

“We offer stevia-based flavourings, such as Zolesse Flavour & Natrose Flavour 2.0, that can modify your bakery flavour profile, but are still labelled as natural.”

Sustainable lifestyles

Europeans recognise the importance of ethically or sustainably sourced ingredients, with almost 31% of Tate & Lyle’s survey respondents saying this is more of a priority following the pandemic than before.

Like clean label, definitions of sustainability vary – for some, it means eating a more plant-based diet, while for others it could be choosing products that use less plastic.

“We’ve seen a rapid increase in products labelled as sustainable and environmentally-friendly – there were 10% more product launches with sustainability claims in 2020 compared to 2016 - and we expect this to only increase,”​ said Vandeputte.

“Manufacturers should make sure they are using the most sustainable ingredients possible, thinking beyond their own operations to their entire supply chain.

“Using locally sourced raw materials, for example, is one simple way to make a bakery ingredients’ list greener, along with choosing sources that show a commitment to sustainable growing programmes.”

Consumer trust

Tate & Lyle’s research, though, found there is still a disconnect between consumer demand and perceived supply.

Consumers are demanding more natural products with fewer ingredients, but they have less trust in manufacturers in delivering these qualities. In fact, 44% of Europeans believe brands make misleading claims about ingredients used in products, while 26% say they don’t trust claims when it comes to what’s in, or excluded from, their products.

“One way brands can build trust is by clearly communicating their clean label credentials to customers,”​ said Vandeputte.

“Providing more information on the provenance of ingredients and giving more transparency about the supply chain, from farm to supermarket, can be a great way to do this. For example, major players in the industry have scaled up and diversified the use of block chain platforms to bring their transparency and sustainability efforts to life for consumers.”

Taste and texture

“We know that every producer has its own specific criteria to reach its transparency goals, which is why we offer a diverse range of solutions to support simpler ingredient listings.”

For example, texturants like functional starches can build back mouthfeel and body in sugar-reduced bakery options. Additionally, they can overcome processing challenges that are created by removing calories from formulations.

It is widely known that fibre fortification lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes, however, the majority of UK adults consume just 19g of fibre per day, significantly under the recommended amount of 30g per day. Tate & Lyle’s starches will go a long way to bridge that gap.

Finally, despite consumers’ varying demands, taste remains the dominant factor impacting buying behaviour.

“It is vital to ensure that texture and stability is maintained without the use of products consumers may consider as artificial, while still delivering the perfect taste and colour. That’s why we ensure that all of our ingredient solutions deliver a neutral colour and clean taste,”​ said Vandeputte.

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