Generally speaking, clean label is an industry term referring to efforts that respond to consumer demand for more natural foods and drinks – removing artificial ingredients and simplifying ingredient lists, for example. However, ‘natural’ is only clearly defined in the EU in regulation related to flavourings, while ‘clean label’ refers to a broader idea of wholesomeness, minimal processing, and transparency about what a product contains.
“Clean label has moved beyond being a trend and is now regarded as standard in the food industry,” Innova said. “Consumers are demanding shorter and more recognisable ingredients lists and manufacturers are responding by increasingly highlighting the naturalness and origins of their products.”
The market research organisation noted “significant rises in the use of clean label ingredients” in 2014, such as natural sweeteners, colours and thickeners, and an increase in the number of products leveraging a clean label positioning.
However, on a global level, the word ‘natural’ has been appearing less often on new products in recent years. According to figures from Euromonitor International, products calling out their natural credentials on-pack fell from 8.8% of global new product launches in 2007 to 6.3%in 2013 – although the proportion was much higher in the United States, where natural claims fell from 33% of new products to 22% in the same time period.
Innova says this is just a matter of communication, and industry is still moving toward more natural ingredients, but companies instead are concentrating on specificity and clarity – thereby avoiding any controversy over the precise definition of ‘natural’.
Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, said: “This demand for clean labelling has now brought the need for clear labelling equally to the fore, resulting in a move to clearer and simpler claims and packaging for maximum transparency and necessitating an industry response in terms of reformulation and new communication strategies.”