The Fewer, the Better
In the ultra-competitive food industry, more manufacturers are vying for your food dollars than ever before. A leisurely stroll down the aisle of your favorite grocery store can seem more like a homework assignment with phrases like “rainforest alliance certified,” “fair trade certified” and “BAP certified” showing up on more and more labels. The good news is that consumers are reading labels more carefully on their favorite food products and pressing manufacturers to step up to the plate.
At the core of the clean labeling movement is the customer’s desire for fewer, more wholesome and easily understood ingredients. This often leads to more transparency among manufacturers in labeling standards, which ultimately benefits consumers.
In response to consumer demand, Smith’s parent company Kroger launched its corporate brand line of Simple Truth products with cleaner ingredient statements.
“When customers are deciding whether or not to purchase a product, it is important to identify what aspects of that item meet their personal and nutritional criteria,” says Marsha Gilford, regional director for corporate affairs at Smith’s.
The value of clean labeling often varies from consumer to consumer. “What our customers are looking for are ingredients they can pronounce and feel comfortable feeding their family,” says Jonnell Masson, a registered dietitian with Harmons. “Some are looking for simple things they can find in their kitchen, while others might be comfortable with a longer ingredient list.”
Along with the call for cleaner and more transparent labels comes an increasing demand from health-conscious consumers for better education about what is in their food. “Shortening the ingredient list allows for real food products versus food science to play into what goes into the item, and that’s benefitting the consumer’s health,” says Gordan Welch, sales director of private label at Harmons.
The Harmons private label brand has sold natural products for several years. Now, bigger brands, like Kraft and General Mills, are following suit and offering more natural choices. According to Welch, they are either buying up those companies or making changes to their own products to match or compete with existing products.
Feeding Your Body
When it comes to nutrition, consumers are as diverse as their dietary needs. “Some want to eat less processed food,” Masson says. “Others want to incorporate more whole grains into their diet or eat less sugar.”
Clean labeling helps them know exactly what they’re eating. “But just because a product has a cleaner label, doesn’t make it a healthier product,” Masson says. “A cookie is still a cookie.”
Choosing Products That Reflect Values
In today’s world, customers increasingly choose products that reflect their values. They want to be confident that the food they’re purchasing reflects their core beliefs, “whether that is natural, in containers that are recyclable, or purchased from companies that have fair labor practices,” Gilford says.
Clean and transparent labels help consumers achieve that confidence.