Clean label trumps brands in Europe, says report

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

Companies cannot rely on a Europe-wide view, says Ingredion
Companies cannot rely on a Europe-wide view, says Ingredion

Related tags European union

The ingredient list and a lack of additives or ‘artificial’ ingredients are the most important considerations for consumers when making a food purchase after price, says a new report on clean label in Europe.

Compiled by Ingredion, The Clean Label Guide to Europe also makes it clear that ingredients which may deter consumers in one European country might have much less of an impact elsewhere.


According to research carried out in 2013 with over 2,800 consumers across Europe, 77% said the ingredient list was ‘very or quite important’ when making a purchase, compared with 86% nominating price and just 53% the brand or manufacturer.


“Price and the ingredient list are the most important for consumers,”​ said Janin Zippel, marketing analyst for Ingredion’s Wholesome business. “It’s clear that manufacturers can’t rely on the brand. People will switch for clean-label reasons.”


She added: “Nor can they rely on a Europe-wide view. You have to look into the specific requirements of each country. It’s not a matter of ‘one size fits all’.”


Conducted by MMR, the research shows that while yeast extract is rarely questioned in Western Europe, for example, it is not widely accepted in either Turkey or Russia. Similarly, ascorbic acid is normally acceptable in Germany, but not really trusted in Turkey. As the report notes, variables include the local media exposure given to particular ingredients, including these examples and monosodium glutamate.


On the other hand, key elements such as natural colours and flavours are almost universally understood and accepted.


According to the guide, the impact of the EU’s Provision of Food Information to Consumers regulation is sharpening the focus on clean label.


“One of the key things about this regulation is that it introduces the need for manufacturers to be fair, clear and easy to understand in terms of the information they provide,”​ said Mona Rademacher, marketing manager at Wholesome. “Labels cannot mislead.”


A claim stating ‘no preservatives, colours or flavours’ might lead consumers to believe a product contained no food additives at all, said Ingredion, and could be considered misleading.


While consumers might judge ‘clean label’ on the absence of additives and preservatives, ‘natural’ or organic labelling, Ingredion also advises its own customers to choose ingredients which do not sound chemical or artificial and to opt for minimal processing techniques that will be familiar to consumers.

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