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Clean label becomes Europe-wide trend

By Rod Addy , 07-Aug-2012
Last updated the 07-Aug-2012 at 15:48 GMT

Demand for ‘clean label’ products has gripped the whole of Europe, rather than select countries, according to the latest research from National Starch Food Innovation Europe, part of the Ingredion Group of incorporated companies. 

And the company predicted that the trend would continue to develop using terminology such as ‘pure’ and ‘simple’.

National Starch said traditionally the UK led the way in consumer appetite for clean label food and drink, a term referring to products listing only a few simple, all-natural, healthy ingredients on labels.

However, results of its latest study of 1,500 consumers in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK, revealed exclusively to FoodNavigator, indicates the movement has strengthened considerably across the EU.

Spilling over

“Clean label has been a rising trend in these areas now,” Cathrin Kurz, European marketing manager, Wholesome, at National Starch told FoodNavigator. “But we see this spilling over into different countries. I expected a lot more confusion about [the definition of clean label]. From our experience the two countries outside the UK showing the biggest interest are Germany and France.”

She claimed the trend was set to take new directions, too. “What we see happening on consumer packaging is pure, simple terminology is on the rise. We see retailer brands often use pure. This might be the next big labelling trend.”

Kurz said clean label solutions would be an area where National Starch Food Innovation Europe “would continue to invest a lot”. Recent activity had included the launch of two co-texturising pulping agents with clean label credentials. The company’s flour range would be another focus, said Kurz.

Wider analysis

The survey - part of wider, ongoing analysis in partnership with market research group MMR - suggests consumers in different countries are attracted to clean label foods in different ways. For example, 84% of Spanish consumers said claims including ‘low in fat’ or ‘high in fibre’ were important or very important, but only half of German consumers said they influenced their purchasing decisions.

In France, consumers reported preferring positive claims such as ‘natural’, whereas UK shoppers said they were more familiar with negative claims such as ‘no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives’.

Similarly, six out of 10 UK consumers said a ‘natural’/’all-natural’ claim would make them consider switching from their usual brand.

Organic food

In Germany, organic food claims were linked to demand for clean label products in consumers’ minds in a more prominent way than in any other country, said Kurz. The survey suggested organic claims were more likely to make German shoppers switch products than any other nationality.

And in Italy, consumers said ‘free-from’ claims would be more likely to make them switch to other products than anything else.

National Starch also claimed that the research showed EU consumers were paying more attention to all forms of labelling. Three quarters rated ingredient lists as important and almost seven out of 10 said they always or usually read front of pack messaging when making a purchasing decision.

86% of Dutch consumers said they usually or always read the label on the front of pack, along with 83% of Spanish and 73% of French respondents. In Italy, more than three quarters of shoppers said they regularly read the side or backs of packs when deciding what to buy. “Clean label has made consumers more aware of ingredients,” said Kurz.

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