Clean Label: The New Standard for Product Innovation, Quality & Safety

Natural product science is yielding new insights into health, risk reduction and the biological foundations of longevity and mental health.

Clean label has become a sweeping term encompassing a convergence of trends surrounding health, diet and sustainability of products that influence how some consumers think about and decide on the products they purchase. The desire for transparency is, on the one hand, tied into growing consumer concerns around sustainability and ethically produced foods.

The consumer lifestyle trend toward cleaner living is broadening. Expectations around what constitutes a clean label have been heightened to include: human and animal welfare, supply chain transparency, plant-powered nutrition and sustainable sourcing. The expectation that food labels should provide greater transparency around the product lifecycle is also driving demand for greater clarity on what goes into food. The essence of clean label and prompting consumers to seek more information about where ingredients come from.

COVID-19 has accelerated consumer interest in diet and health, with a considerable up-tick in the number of people who expect the food they eat to deliver functional benefits, including immunity. Research from Global Data suggests that 60% of consumers worldwide proactively look for products that improve their health. This trend is supported by data from ingredient supplier ADM, which reveals that 31% of consumers are purchasing more items tailored for their health, and 50% report a preference for foods and beverages that naturally contain beneficial ingredients.

“The global health crisis has changed consumer preferences in new and unexpected ways, according to Vince Macciocchi, ADM President of Nutrition. We are seeing a heightened demand for foods and beverages that support immune systems, enhance our mood and reduce our environmental impact, driven in part by emerging human tensions. This has provided a unique opportunity for brands to develop disruptive new products that will forever change the way we eat and drink. It’s going to be a year of innovation, marked by significant breakthroughs in nutrition.”

In partnership with Decision Analyst, the ingredient manufacturer Cargill conducted a proprietary quantitative survey of 302 U.S. grocery shoppers to gain insight on their perception of clean label products. The objective was to determine what ingredients they are seeking to avoid, to understand the language they use in talking about clean label products, and determine the degree to which they pay attention to ingredient lists and nutritional information on products.

Consumers often place an emphasis on “clean label” when it comes to products that are consumed by children. Other important product categories include dairy, nutrition bars/beverages, yogurt and cereal. Price premiums are still a sticking point for some, but nearly half of respondents now say they would pay a premium price for products made with familiar ingredients.

  • Among respondents who claim to know what “clean label” means, a combined 70% are either “extremely likely” or “likely” to seek out products that meet their definition of “clean label.”
    • When asked about what “clean label” means to them, respondents most associated organic (68%) with having a very clean label. More than half of respondents also linked products that “contain familiar ingredients” with “clean label.”
    • Pesticides, chemicals and artificial sweeteners prompt consistent avoidance of products, with more than half of respondents saying they tend to avoid products with such ingredients. Interestingly, sugar ranks lowest at only 32%, while it was noted as the most avoided ingredient in the open-ended responses.
    • 69% seek out ingredients with nutritional value.
    • 93% of households have now purchased what they perceive to be “clean label” product at grocery stores.

BioQuant Labs is prepared to provide independent testing services to the suppliers of natural product ingredients, agricultural producers, and innovators disrupting consumer markets with products that deliver functional benefits for health and wellness.