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Clean label food and beverages go mainstream

Clean Label Top-of-Mind with Consumers in 2016
Shifting cultural forces are disrupting the food scene and the biggest game changer is consumer hunger for clean label options.

Today’s consumer wants great-tasting foods and beverages that deliver efficacious doses of health-promoting ingredients with transparent processing methods and substantiated claims.

From its roots in reducing the number of ingredients and opting for more “natural” alternatives, clean label has moved from fad to mainstream, and brands—large and small—are launching and/or reformulating products with natural, clean ingredients. Clean label products span nearly every food and beverage category—from dairy to meat, frozen foods to condiments and everything in between. The vast market opportunity was evident at this year’s Natural Products Expo West show where more than more than 86,000 attendees from 136 countries, gathered to see the latest natural and organic CPGs.

Specific categories touting increased clean label innovation include bakery, snacks, dressings, marinades, sauces, RTD beverages, meal kits and confectionery. These new products appeal to health conscious consumers who want food and beverages made with clean label ingredients obtained by minimal process, with simpler ingredient composition on the label.

Consider the bakery sector that is evolving to meet consumer demand for products that address a range of health benefits, including heart health, weight management, allergen-friendly and more. Replacing or reducing ingredients such as fat, gluten and sugars with clean label counterparts isn’t easy because they play key roles in a product’s texture, visual appeal, moisture retention, stability, shelf life and taste.

In-demand clean label ingredients include natural colors, flavors, sweeteners, fats & oils, starches & gums, fibers, proteins, preservatives and much more. Demand is so high for clean label options that Research and Markets predicts the global clean label ingredient market is expected to value US$47.50 billion by 2023.

But being a leader in the clean label food and beverage space doesn't happen overnight. Understanding trends, ingredient considerations, supply chain issues and production processes is critical for success. Consider formulation; some ingredients are not a 1:1 replacement for conventional ingredients. Brands also must be willing to pay extra for these premium ingredients and work with their supplier to guarantee ample ingredients for scaling up.

Inside the mind of the consumer

With no legal or industry definition of clean label, the benchmark is constantly evolving based consumer demographics, which makes identifying the clean label consumer and understanding how their mindset affects purchasing behavior critical for brand growth.

A 2017 survey commissioned by specialty PR agency Ingredient Communications found 73% percent of consumers will pay a higher retail price for a food or drink product made with ingredients they recognize and trust. In a survey of 1,300 consumers across Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific, 52% of respondents said they would spend over 10% more on a food or beverage product that contained ingredients they recognized and trusted, while 18% said they would pay 75% or more. Overall, 76% of respondents said they would be more likely to buy a product that contained ingredients they recognized and trusted. U.S. consumers were willing to pay the highest prices—with 44% stating they would pay 75% or more extra for ingredients they recognized and trusted. This was followed by consumers in India (32%), the Philippines (29%) and Malaysia (26%).

The findings underscore the growing importance of clean and clear labeling and the use of ingredients that are familiar to consumers. The survey found recognition of ingredients to be one of the biggest drivers of product choice, with 52% of respondents considering it to be an important factor. This was comparable with an ability to see nutrition information on-pack (considered important by 53%) and acceptability of price (55%). An ability to recognize ingredients by name was rated more important than both an ability to tell that a product was high quality (selected by 32%) and taste (50%).

As more brands launch clean label food and beverages, the NEXTY Awards at SupplySide West 2019 seek to honor the best. We want to hear how your brand took a traditionally unhealthy, preservative-filled, artificial food and turned it on its head to provide a product that is healthy, natural and transparent. We’re looking for products made with quality, natural ingredients from brands that communicate those values to consumers in open, honest and squeaky-clean ways.

Does your company make an innovative clean label food or beverage that incorporates any of these trends? If so, I invite you to enter the NEXTY Awards at SupplySide West 2019 that recognize innovative and inspirational finished products launched to the U.S. consumer market between summer 2018 and July 26, 2019.

The NEXTY Awards at SupplySide West recognize innovation, inspiration and integrity across 13 finished product categories. Winning products represent what’s “next” in wellness trends, in solving today’s health and sustainability problems, in ingredient innovation, in packaging, in condition management, in supply chain growth and transparency, and in health impact.

Products must be submitted by the CPG brands or their representatives, not by ingredient or component suppliers. The submission deadline is July 26, 2019. Winners announced at SupplySide West in Las Vegas, Oct. 15-19, 2019.

For more than 20 years, SupplySide has helped those in the food, beverage, dietary supplement, animal nutrition, personal care and cosmetic industries break through the hype and ambiguity to find the information they need to explore, discover, innovate and market their next best-selling product.

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