What is clean label and why is it attracting consumer attention?


23 October 2023


Over the last few years, a significant number of consumers have been making purchasing decisions based on the health and wellbeing factors attributed to certain food products.


Common focus points have included reducing sugar or increasing fibre content. However, as food and ingredient innovation has expanded to meet buyer and government driven health demands, another movement is gaining momentum.


At its core, ‘clean label’, is the term given to foods made using minimal ingredients that are instantly recognisable to consumers. Due to this, clean label products are typically viewed more favourably, as the customer can easily understand what they are eating and where the ingredients have come from.  As no regulated definition of clean label exists, consumers may choose these products for a variety of reasons: 


The health-conscious consumer

As previously established, health and wellbeing are the main driving forces behind the clean label trend. Health-conscious consumers are often more in tune with their diets, paying greater attention to the ingredients within products. Therefore, short ingredient lists, with easily recognisable ingredients, will be desirable to these consumers.



Keeping it natural

Many consumers are interested in avoiding additives, such as sweeteners, colourants and flavours. Complex chemical names may be met poorly by consumers who may view these as artificial, even if they are not.



Planet friendly and ethically sourced ingredients

Media coverage of the climate crisis is an ongoing, everyday occurrence. With so many consumers concerned about their environmental impact, many are looking towards green, clean label and eco-friendly products. Clean label and whole food ingredients may often align with other sustainable and ethical practices. These include fair trade, sustainable agriculture and the ethical and local sourcing of key ingredients. Consumers who wish to consider these factors when shopping, are more likely to choose clean label options.



Allergen avoidance

Manufacturers of clean label products may also aim to ensure they are free of any legally declarable allergens, allowing them to be marketed at consumers who need to avoid those specific allergens in their diet. For those with allergies to other food ingredients outside of the declarable allergens, shorter more transparent ingredient lists make it easy for them to identify foods they need to avoid. In producing ‘free-from’ products, often additives and other ingredients are needed as replacements, so these products do not always fall into the category of ‘clean label’.



Premium focus

While clean label may attract a more health focused market, the use of high quality, easy to recognise ‘store cupboard’ ingredients can also appeal to those looking for higher end, more luxurious products. It is therefore important to note, that just because something is viewed as being clean label, it does not necessarily equate to a healthy choice in terms of nutritional quality. Some clean label products can still be high in sugar, fat, salt and calories which may further confuse consumers looking for healthy products to enjoy.




How can RSSL help?

No matter the driving force behind clean label, it is vital that the food industry meet consumer demand for clean label alternatives to the products they know and love. If you need help with developing a clean label product, our team of analytical experts and product developers are on hand to support you on your clean label journey. Click the button to find out more or contact us on the form below.

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