Clean Label in 2020

Clean Label has been around several years now but far from being a fad, its significance is only growing. More and more shoppers are now scrutinising the list of ingredients before purchasing a product, whether it be checking suitability for a gluten-free, keto or vegan diet, or making sure that artificial preservatives, additives or other controversial ingredients are not present.

Consumers are increasingly aware of the impact different foods can have on our health (and our planet), both positively and negatively. Dozens of functional foods targeting specific needs, from energy boost to gut health have hit our shelves this year, with sleep-aiding foods and ‘CBD everything’ further down the pipeline.  On the flip-side to these hero ingredients, consumers are distrustful of long lists of chemical-sounding names that they don’t understand, instead demanding recognisable ingredients that that are as familiar as those they might have in the cupboard at home.

In essence, the push for Clean Label is about making ingredients lists as short and simple as possible, with an aversion for those that sound synthetic. Whole brands have even launched on the premise of ‘ingredients you can see and pronounce’ and in its extreme health influencers say things like ‘don’t buy foods with more than five ingredients’ and ‘if you can’t say it don’t eat it’.

And while it’s not necessarily the case that an ingredient with a complex name is harmful or unhealthy (especially as some complex or artificial sounding names are merely the chemical names for vitamins or simple ingredients) the food industry now recognises the demand for complete transparency and authenticity. In short, people have the right to know what they are eating.

Clean Label 2.0

This demand for transparency and authenticity now extends beyond the list of what’s inside the packaging. Ethical and environmental credentials covering every step of the supply chain and manufacturing process are in the spotlight, from air miles, soil health and waste to the contribution to community. Messaging on-pack increasingly promotes links with the community and restaurants and supermarkets now compete on how ‘local’ their produce is. Ocado for example have heavily invested in vertical farms which will be located next to their distribution centres with an ultimate aim to have fresh produce delivered to consumers within an hour of being picked. Supermarkets and restaurants have a greater focus on reducing waste, and a multitude of apps focusing on food redistribution or food sharing are now available. 

While ‘clean label’ in itself is not generally a message applied directly to customer-facing packaging owing to the lack of a clear and consistent definition, ethical and environmental messages can become a USP and provide discerning consumers with the reassurance they seek.

Simple steps to simpler labelling

As well as looking at their own manufacturing processes, food processors must seek environmentally friendly and simple ingredients, from the pre-made elements they buy in, such as coatings.

Clean label has been a focus at Bowman Ingredients for nearly 20 years now. Our extrusion breadcrumb manufacturing process allows us to create products that meet clean label trends for shorter ingredient decks using store cupboard ingredients. Our process is energy-efficient and uses less water than the traditional tin-baked breadcrumb process typically adopted by other crumb producers – and crucially creates significantly less waste.  The extrusion process means that we can choose from a wider spectrum of raw materials, from gluten-free to soil-positive to novel, allowing food manufacturers to cater for different diets and preferences. Because of the consistency of the process it gives us greater control over finished quality, ensuring all-important protection for your brand.