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What ‘clean label’ means, and how consumers react to clean label products
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April 19, 2018

In this day in age, consumers are more educated than they ever have been. Across the globe, people are paying more attention to nutrition labels and ingredient lists on the products they purchase at grocery stores. This heightened awareness is continuously increasing, and has been over the last several years as consumer demand shifts away from artificial flavors and ingredients and towards natural and sustainable solutions. People want to know not only where their products are coming from, but also where the ingredients are sourced from and why these ingredients are in their products.

Specifically, simple labels and short ingredient lists are seen as ideal. An ingredient list with recognizable items and an overall short list are perceived to be better or “cleaner” to most consumers. Artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, and preservatives are items most people looking for clean labels want to avoid finding on the ingredient lists of food items they purchase.
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Why Clean Label?

Consumers are aware of a phenomenon commonly referred to as “green-washing.” This refers to the overuse of terms such as “natural” that are frequently painted across various food packages. In certain contexts, natural does not hold much meaning or has an ambiguous meaning. The definition of “natural” when used in different cases will be the topic of a future blog post. In general, the issues with green-washing have driven consumers to seek transparency in their products. Simply stating the product or ingredients are natural is not enough anymore, especially with rising occurrences of food fraud and adulteration.

However, consumers are willing to pay more for products they perceive as transparent. True organic and natural products warrant price increases, and consumers expect this to be the case. Health has come to the forefront of conversations as a flood of social media marketing techniques hone in on the benefits of clean eating, natural beauty and cosmetics products, and having the ability to personalize diets and beauty regimens that cater to the individual.  Consumers believe the added expense is worth having assurance that what they are purchasing will provide those functional benefits.
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Who Makes These Purchases?

Women account for about 85% of all consumer purchases and over 90% of food related purchases are made by women. Manufacturers of final products and the ingredients in these products need to understand who their consumer is, what they want, and why they want it. In the next few years, it will be increasingly important for manufacturers to educate the general public so that consumers understand how they’re making their products.  Adjusting the messaging and marketing strategies can play an important role in ensuring consumers establish trust in a brand that touts itself as natural while providing clean label products.

Food is by far the largest market seeing the increase in clean labeling. However, the personal care industry is also affected by the need for cleaner labels. Consumers of cosmetics and baby products are looking for ingredients that they perceive to be better for them, their families, and the environment. This trend is also permeating into home cleaning products, with legislation such as SB-258 in California effectively requiring transparency on cleaning products throughout the state.
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Want More Information?

Join Us at IFT18!

Blue Marble will be joining some of our collaborators from companies such as Firmenich, Gingko Bioworks, and Campbell’s to discuss the current standings of clean labels, and what the future may hold.

To register for the short course, click here!

For more information on IFT18 or to register as an exhibitor or attendee, click here!
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Dr. Frances Gilman is the VP of Research and Development for Blue Marble Biomaterials, having attained a B.S. in Biology and a Ph.D. in Microbial Ecology.
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