The most popular clean attributes of 2019 include shorter ingredient lists, free-from claims and certifications like Organic, GMO Project Verified and Fair Trade (the list goes on). But with no FDA definition of natural, every brand and food manufacturer is adopting different methods and strategies to help position their products as clean label. The latest methods which have proven successful for the leading brands include implementing transparent business practices, utilizing social media to communicate clean product positioning and developing better-for-you line extensions.
Transparency is Key
Consumers want to know more about the companies from which they are buying products. This includes everything from where ingredients are being sourced, farming practices, working conditions of employees and sustainable packaging to company values and philanthropic efforts. Brands are responding by developing products and supply chains to enable clean label claims.
In April 2019, global food and beverage giant Nestle published its second round of supplier lists for public viewing in an industry-first move towards total supply chain transparency. “Transparency in our supply chains is essential and we will continue to lead in this area’, explains Magdi Batato, Executive VP at Nestle.
Lipton is committed to sourcing 100% sustainable tea by 2020. The company is working to make all of it tea Rainforest Alliance Certified, which helps protect the land, water and people in tea-growing areas. The consumer affect can create a powerful effect since tea is the second-most popular beverage in the world after water.
Happy Family, producer of organic baby and toddler foods, values “enlightened ingredients” and aims to help parents make informed decisions. Taking transparency quite literally, Happy Family’s baby foods line comes in clear packaging and features not only the product’s ingredients and nutritional values, but also the actual recipe for the baby food.
One Degree Organic Foods values sustainability, simplicity and organic farming. Its website features an ingredient tracker that allows consumers to scan a package code and see the source of each ingredient in the product. Consumers can then dive deeper into specific ingredients with a short video profiling the producer and photos of the farm.
Positioning on Social Media
Social media has further propelled the clean trend and provided an effective platform for brands to communicate and visually showcase their commitment to clean label. Brands are capitalizing on its reach.
Arctic Zero aims to be the cleanest ice cream alternative in the freezer aisle. The company chose to use a social media video campaign to show how ‘clean label’ is more than just ‘free from’. “The video was a way for us to share in a fun and brand-centric way more detail on our ingredient choices and why we chose them”, says CEO Amit Pandhi.
Chobani expertly uses Instagram to showcase appreciation for the healthy treat and build a community around its products. The company shares high-quality images of product-inspired meals and recipes through influential social media platforms. This strategy positions yogurt as a versatile, yet healthy food product.
Hub Spot reports that consumers remember 10% of what they hear. However, show them an image with the information and that number jumps to 65%. Luvo Foods believes that a clearly defined visual marketing strategy showing ingredient transparency and clean label is crucial to brand recognition and building a loyal following.
Kasama Chocolate documents their entire bean-to-bar process with their social media followers. From sourcing the cacao beans, experimenting with roasting methods, to refining, the entire process is available to the consumer. This is becoming an increasingly popular approach among food brands, as transparency builds trust and helps customers connect with a brand.
Reformulating to Stay Relevant
Food and beverage manufacturers are adding line extensions and reformulating existing products as an essential response to the clean label movement.
Pioneered by a group of Campbell Soup employees, the Well Yes! line was crafted with simple ingredients to appeal to consumers seeking clean labels. The soups contain no artificial colors, flavors, ingredients or modified starches and are made with such ingredients as chicken with no antibiotics, quinoa, kale and whole grains.
As consumers increasingly seek out cleaner labels in functional beverages, PepsiCo-owned Propel Water is capitalizing on the trend by undertaking a “brand transformation” in April 2019 with the launch of Vitamin Boost, a new functional water line made without artificial sweeteners.
To meet organic demand, Ardent Mills recently expanded its Ultragrain Whole Wheat Flour line to include organic options. Wheat is a non-GMO grain, and its organic product mix includes organic options from durum, cracked wheat, spelt, whole wheat flour, bread wheat flour, all-purpose wheat flour, pastry flour to customized breads.
The big push for clean label also extends into retailers’ private brands. Kroger’s Simple Truth lines boasts more than 1,400 products that are “organic,” “free from” and “natural. Several other store brands are creating their own lines including Whole Foods, HEB and ShopRite.
The bottom line? The clean label trend represents a permanent shift in consumer preference, and if the past is prologue, the definition will only continue to expand.
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