Consumers see ingredients lists that are shorter and easily understandable as ‘cleaner’. This is often perceived as healthier and the clean label drive goes hand-in-hand with NOVA’s classification system of ultra-processed foods and a desire amoung consumers for natural products.
According to the market research company Mintel, 34% of food and drink products launched in Europe between last year (July 2018 and Jun 2019) featured a natural claim. Mintel's definition of a natural claim includes the following five attributes: no additives/preservatives, GMO-free, organic, wholegrain and all-natural products.
Meanwhile, 73% of Spanish and 65% French consumers said that they are more likely to trust a food/drink product if packaging explains where the ingredients are sourced, according to market researcher Haystack. And a massive 89% of consumers in the UK have said that they think that fewer ingredients in a product the better.
Clean label solutions to deliver health and functionality benefits
The trend is prompting manufacturers to target ingredients lists with five-or-fewer ‘store cupboard’ components. Consumers favour simplicity and are looking to food producers to deliver it. This increased focus on health and demand for transparency, is in turn putting pressure on manufacturers to deliver products that have a clean label as a basic requirement, in even the most challenging food products.
“Clean label is a term the food industry has used for many years, however consumer demand for ‘everything from nature’ has continued to grow and shape product reformulation and ingredients lists,” agreed Benoit Tavernier, Product Manager Rice Ingredients at BENEO, which makes functional ingredients derived from the chicory root, sugar beet, rice and wheat. “As clean label has become mainstream, the question of its evolution can be answered in part by consumers' continued desire for a healthier lifestyle. They are wanting more from their clean label products than ever before.”
As an illustration of this trend, the BENEO-Technology Center in Germany has been working with customers on a wide range of recipe concepts, including everything from cream cheese, bakery creams, ice creams and tomato based sauces, through to spoonable dressings and ketchups.
“Adding a clean label texturiser, whilst reducing fat and/or high glycaemic carbohydrates and maintaining taste and texture is not easy, with many technical challenges to be overcome,” said Tavernier. “However, a range of functional ingredients have been proving their worth in even the most difficult clean label applications.”
Challenges for clean labels
However, there is a risk that the clean label movement could see the removal of ingredients that fortify, stabilise or preserve foods. This raises concerns over health, food safety and shelf-life. How can manufacturers remove or replace certain ingredients – without sacrificing some elements of the eating experience that we all love – such as great taste, texture, the ability to stay fresh for longer?
BENEO’s solution has been to develop an advanced thermal inhibition process that strengthens native rice starch granules to enhance their functional properties. “Due to this entirely natural production process that Remypure is developed under, BENEO’s functional native rice starch Remypure S52 achieves performance levels comparable to chemically modified food starches, without using any chemicals,” Tavernier told FoodNavigator. “S52 is natural and has a clean label, as well as a soft and creamy texture thanks to the uniqueness of rice starch which has small granule size when compared to other starches, plus good shelf-life stability and freeze-thaw functionality.”
As a result, Tavernier explained, Remypure S52 is ideal for retort applications. “The challenge with this process is to maintain viscosity after the retort process. Tests of retorted tomato sauces containing Remypure S52 show that it is possible to maintain optimal functionality and the delicate texture during this high temperature treatment thanks to its high process tolerance.”