Clean Labels: What are Consumers Saying, What is Industry Doing?

Posted on:October 6, 2016

October 6, 2016–Global Food Forums, Inc.
The following is an excerpt from the “2016 Clean Label Conference Summary,”
sponsored by Givuadan, RiceBran Technologies, TIC Gums, Blue Pacific Flavors,
World Technology Ingredients, Inc. and IOI Loders Croklaan.

As food manufacturers, retail and foodservice chains, and the nutritional supplement industry show continued commitment to provide consumer-friendly ingredients in their products, interest in how to realistically accomplish this grows. Global Food Forums first recognized the need for this information in 2012, with the first Clean Label Conference held in 2013.

The 2016 Clean Label Conference, March 29-30, in Itasca, Ill., continued with the successful format of non-ingredient supplier-aligned, general session speakers offering insights into label ingredient technologies, regulatory updates, and consumer and retailer trends.

The first of the speakers was Tom Vierhile, MSc, Innovation Insights Director of Canadean. The following summary is also included in the 2016 Clean Label Conference Summary, accessible by clicking the previous link or by visiting Global Food Forums, Inc.’s Clean Label Conference Store.


When asked, “What does the term ‘clean label’ mean to you?” 45% of U.S.- based survey respondents said they don’t know. This shows the “don’t know” response by age, suggesting older consumers are most flummoxed by the clean label concept. [Click on image for larger PDF of the chart.]

What are Consumers Saying, and What is the Industry Doing?

Clean label is like art or—recalling the Supreme Court’s infamous discussion on obscenity—like pornography. “You know it when you see it,” said Tom Vierhile, Innovation Insights Director of Canadean, in his 2016 Clean Label Conference presentation.

Vierhile shared results from Canadean surveys of roughly 50,000 respondents across 47 countries in 2015. When asked, “What does the term ‘clean label’ mean to you?” respondents’ most popular answer wasn’t surprising: 45% of American consumers said they don’t know. However some 30% associated it with “free from
artificial ingredients,” while 29% credited natural/organic claims. Roughly a quarter identified no pesticides/chemicals/toxins, minimally processed and free from allergens. One fifth said no GMOs, and 17% answered “simple/short ingredient list.”

“For marketers of ingredients and consumer packaged goods, [this means] if you use verbiage like ‘clean label,’ consumers aren’t going to know what it means,” Vierhile said. Even more interesting is the breakdown of responses by age. Young respondents think they know clean label best, while older demographics don’t. The top responses by each age group also show that clean label means different things to each segment.

For 18-34-year-olds, it’s about natural/organic claims. The 35-44 segment agrees but also scores high for minimal processing. Every segment at 45 and above most often said “free from artificial ingredients.” (See chart “I Don’t Know What Clean Label Means.”)

“A majority of U.S. consumers really don’t want to pay a premium for clean label,” Vierhile added. “That’s something all age groups agree with.” The most generous
segment is 18-24-year-olds, with nearly 40% of them willing to pay 1-5% more, but they’re also the most cash-strapped, according to Vierhile.

A survey targeting U.S. consumers shows they consider terms like fresh (72%), natural (65%) and organic (58%) as meaning more nutritious, while GMOs are less nutritious. When broken down by age, 33% of 18-to-24-year-olds consider GMOs significantly less nutritious, and that percentage drops to about 25% for the other age groups; it is lowest among 65+, at 18%. Companies are inventing even
more undefined food terms that suggest attention to clean label concerns, Vierhile noted, citing as examples such terms as bare, stripped, simple, ugly, unfiltered and cold-pressed.

Approximately 86% of consumers find products with short ingredient lists appealing (45% say somewhat; 41% said very). “Shorter ingredient lists are part of a back-to-basics movement,” Vierhile said, citing Haagen-Dazs Five (which is no longer on the market, but helped pioneer the trend) and Back to the Roots’ stone-ground flakes.

Not surprisingly, consumers are easily scared off by ingredients with which they are not familiar. A 2013 survey of six countries by Ketchum said 68% of consumers want to recognize every ingredient on the label. Vierhile cited examples like KIND and NatureValley,  with claims like “simple ingredients from nature.”

Raw and unprocessed foods are a growing, albeit controversial, arena. Canadean surveyed U.S. consumers on the perceived benefits: natural (50%), more nutritious (43%), fresher (39%), additive-free (38%) and tastes better (25%). On the negative side, raw foods’ high cost and short expiration dates are viewed as bigger negatives than safety risks (45% vs. 36%).

As a whole, 57% prefer fewer chemicals and processed ingredients over [nutritional] functionality in their foods. Consumers under 35 narrowly prefer functionality, but the reverse is true of those over 35; and, for ages 65+, 69% prefer fewer chemicals/processed ingredients.

Vierhile credited sectors like sports drinks and high-protein items as boosting the functionality numbers for younger consumers, while suggesting that Perdue Farms’ “no antibiotics ever” campaign earlier this year might appeal to the over-35 demographic. The same may be true for the industry trend of phasing out artificial colors and flavors, as several companies are. Examples include Subway, Mars, Campbell’s, and cereals from General Mills and Kellogg’s. Trix cereal recently changed to natural colorings, and that came with a few negatives—no more bright colors and 10 additional calories per serving—but one big positive: Sales are up 6% through the first couple of months of 2016.

Although only 24% of Americans link color with nutritional value, purveyors are increasing the number of innovations to tell a “color story,” Vierhile said. He pointed to examples like Burger King’s black bun burgers from Japan, and the fact that charcoal is trending in beverages to associate with “detoxification.”

“What Are Consumers Saying and What is the Industry Doing?” Tom Vierhile, MSc, Innovation Insights Director of Canadean,, 585-223-2705

Carrageenan and Social Sustainability

Posted on:August 26, 2016
carrageenan harvest

Photo courtesy

Carrageenan, Sustainability and the Concept of “Employment Factor”

IMR International has developed a concept of “Employment Factor” for hydrocolloids. Biopolymers are produced by few people in highly automated production facilities. In the case of agricultural and aquatic hydrocolloids there are many more farmers and harvesters employed in producing the raw material, says Dennis Seisun, IMR’s founder.

Aquatic farming of carrageenan seaweed, for example, employs tens of thousands of low income farmers in the Philippines and Indonesia along with many other countries. A rough calculation by IMR based on market values and estimates of persons employed shows that $1.00 worth of some hydrocolloids employs over 100 times more persons than $1.00 worth of other hydrocolloids. This concept could well be used in promoting the social and sustainable aspect of the high “Employment Factor” hydrocolloids.

– IMR International, Organizers of THE Food Hydrocolloid Conference for 21 years. Details at

Update on Carrageenan and Health
Carrageenan has been linked to certain potentially harmful health issues. However, a just published peer-reviewed study in Elsevier’s  Food Chemical Toxicology notes that “In conclusion, CGN [carrageenan] was not absorbed, and was not cytotoxic. It did not induce oxidative stress, and did not induce proinflammatory proteins.”
Effects of Carrageenan on Cell Permeability, Cytotoxicity, and Cytokine Gene Expression in Human Intestinal and Hepatic Cell Lines. McKim, JM Jr, et. al., Food Chem Toxicol. 2016 Jul 14;96:1-10

Claudia Dziuk O’Donnell, Global Food Forums, Inc. Co-owner

Special Market Focus: Current and Future Developments in Algae Protein Commercialization

Posted on:August 5, 2016

August 5, 2016—Global Food Forums, Inc.—The following is an excerpt from the “2015 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar Business Highlights Report.” 

Matthew Carr, Algae Biomass Organization, Chart: Comparing Algae to Other Protein Crops

Click on chart to view a larger PDF version.

Algae have picked up a great deal of commercial momentum in recent years. There are over 50,000 species—from microscopic organisms to large seaweed—and all are exceptionally fast growing and productive. Crops of some mature in hours or days, instead of months or years. They have some of the lowest carbon, water and arable land footprints of any crop, according to Matt Carr, Ph.D., Executive Director of Algae Biomass Organization, and the Pre-Conference’s “Special Focus” presenter.

The U.S. Department of Energy is leading the “algae charge” in the U.S. In 2009, it invested $100 million in algae biorefinery projects. Every year since, it has spent $25-30 million on research and development of algae-based biofuels.

“Along the way, a surprising thing happened,” Carr said. “Companies discovered what many societies have known for a long time. Not only are algae productive, they have things other than oil that could be of interest to consumer markets—in particular, protein content.”

The recent demand for protein is “stressing our land [and] thinning our seas, and Mother Nature isn’t cooperating,” Carr said, referring to global climate change. “It’s time to get back to basics: specifically, the use of one of the earliest life forms as
a source of protein.”

On average, algae generally matches or exceeds other feedstock protein crops in desired components, except sugar/ starch content,  where corn is still “king.” That said, algae is relatively new to the protein realm and is mostly found in powdered forms for nutritional supplements.

The “grand daddy” of algae protein strains is spirulina, a 60%+ complete protein with powerful antioxidants like astaxanthin. It has a more than 30-year history in the nutritional supplement market and has more recently moved into the beverage market, with products like Naked Juice.

In the 40s and 50s, the green algae chlorella was considered a solution to the global food crises. It now is a nutritional supplement and protein flour that Carr says has a lot of potential in fermentation-derived products.

Researchers continue to experiment with what Carr calls “the next generation of agriculture,” by using algae for natural pigments/ coloring and feed for salmon, carp, shrimp, broiler chicks and weanling pigs.

“Consumer demand is driving the new wave of innovation in algae protein,” Carr said. “There are exciting new products entering the market, including algal flour and natural pigments, and this multi-product model that’s emerging will likely enable
further growth.”

Matt Carr, Ph.D., Executive Director, Algae Biomass Organization,

What to Expect When You are Expected to Achieve Non-GMO Project Verification

Posted on:July 20, 2016

July 20, 2016—Global Food Forums, Inc.—The following is an excerpt from the “2015 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar Business Highlights Report.” 

Knight, NSF International,

This chart details permitted levels of GM contamination in various products. [Click on chart image for full-size PDF version.]

There are many things you need to know if you’re going to pursue non-GMO Project verification, including definitions, retail and consumer perception, the legislation surrounding them and the background of the Non-GMO Project organization, said Nancy Knight, Business Unit Manager for NSF International, which is a Technical Administrator to the Non-GMO Project, in her Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar-Business Highlights presentation titled “What to Expect When You are Expected to Achieve Non-GMO Project Verification.”

However, if there’s one key element one really must know, it is the food components. “Coming out of the food industry, and being on the technical side, I was used to the requirements of tracing your ingredients for food certifications, but the depth of knowledge required for Non-GMO Project verification was a real eye-opener on things you’d probably never thought about asking your suppliers,” said Knight. “Because traceability is key for determining non-GMO status, ingredients throughout the supply chain have to be verified.”

As Knight noted, the system “may seem complicated,” but as the fastest growing label in the industry, many companies are committed to pursuing this verification. A few points are offered here.

The three core components of the Non-GMO Project Standard are:
Testing. All major GMO risk ingredients must be tested prior to use in a verified product and be compliant with the action threshold.
Segregation. Segregation requirements ensure that, once tested, material is protected from contamination throughout the manufacturing process.
Traceability. Traceability measures ensure all high-risk inputs are tracked through to the final product.

The first step in obtaining verification is to separate your ingredients into non-risk, low-risk and high-risk. Each category undergoes different levels of testing. Non-risk ingredients are “not derived from biological organisms and are not, therefore, susceptible to genetic modification.” Examples include salt, lime and fossil-based products.

Items falling into the low-risk category are “species for which genetically modified versions have not yet been commercialized or for which there are no known or suspected instances of contamination.” Examples would be bell peppers or quinoa at this point in time. High-risk foods or ingredients include those that are commonly genetically modified, such as corn, soy, cotton, canola, papaya, sugar beet, summer squash, alfalfa, animal derivatives (honey, dairy, meat) and microorganisms/enzymes.

If it is a single, unprocessed ingredient under consideration, it’s relatively easy to decipher if it’s high or low risk. However, if it is a further-processed ingredient, determination of non-GMO status becomes more difficult. Examples of the latter include modified starch, dextrose and vegetable oil.

“Ask your supplier to disclose the source of the ingredient when there is a chance of it having come from a high-risk source,” Knight advised. After risk assessment, the next step is to classify ingredients as major (>5%), minor (between 0.5-5%) or micro (<0.5%) components of a product. “Defining ingredients” that appear as part of a product’s name are considered major and will be tested. All high-risk inputs that are major ingredients in the final product are tested using either genetic (Real Time or Digital PCR) or immunologically based tests.

For example, in the case of a corn chip where the finished prod¬uct contains 97% corn and 3% oil, the certifiers will ask to see a sampling and testing plan for the corn. In the case of a meat-based product that is 99% beef and 1% spices, they need to see a sampling and testing plan for the feed the cows consumed.

“While the absence of all GMOs is the target for all Non-GMO Project standard compliant products, the Non-GMO Project knows that is not realistic and, therefore, it is not the requirement,” Knight said. She provided a chart that detailed permitted level of GM contamination in various products. (See chart “GM Contamination Action Thresholds.”)

“The Non-GMO Project asks that participants implement continuous improvement practices in their quality management systems,” Knight said. A key requirement of such quality manage¬ment systems is to meet and always be below an action threshold. Inputs that do not comply with the testing requirements may not be intentionally used in verified products.
Nancy Knight, Business Unit Manager, NSF International,, 858-200-9722,

Posted by: Claudia Dziuk O’Donnell, Co-owner, Content Editor, Global Food Forums, Inc.



Marketing Trends in Protein: Are You Capitalizing on the Opportunity?

Posted on:May 20, 2016

May 20, 2016—Global Food Forums, Inc.—The following is an excerpt from the “2015 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar Business Highlights Report.” 


For a larger version of chart, click on image.

“There are really two main things driving the whole protein movement,” said Steve French, Managing Partner of Natural Marketing Institute (NMI). First and foremost, there’s the increase in consumer perception that protein is beneficial for energy, weight management and strength—not to mention consumers’ belief that they need more of it in their diets. In fact, 21% of Americans in 2014 considered themselves deficient in protein, compared to 11% in 2010.

The second thing driving the momentum is simple: “The plethora of new products available in the market.”

New product launches have increased dramatically, French said. In the U.S. alone, there were more than 900 introductions between 2013-2014, according to the GNPD, compared to 278 between 2005-2006. The subsets and niches in which these products appear are the most interesting aspects.

“We can look across many different types of categories. You can look at snacks, beverages, whey protein, breakfast products, products targeted to kids and products targeted to mature groups: protein is everywhere,” stated French.

Looking at the eclectic mix in the consumer packaged goods market data, French noted, “It’s all about pets, kids and snacks.” Pet-related protein products make up almost a third of the entire market, likely because dogs require twice as much protein as humans. French added, “Nutritional products, such as bars and drinks, also represent a significant opportunity.”

The biggest growth in the industry is happening with vitamins/supplements and wholesome snacks, while baby formula has experienced the biggest decline. French attributed these numbers to a protein product “life cycle.” Based on patterns that NMI has observed, French said bourgeoning sectors experience early success, but it then often turns to moderate growth, and ultimately flattens out or declines slightly. Yogurt and dog food fall at the end of this cycle; wholesome snacks are at the beginning; and other nutritional items in the middle.

“It’s all about market timing,” he said. “I’m not saying that yogurt isn’t opportunistic, but if you had a choice on where to put your resources, it might be in wholesome snacks and nutritionals—because that’s where the market has the most growth.”

“Marketing Trends in Protein: Are You Capitalizing on the
Opportunity?” Steve French, Managing Partner, NMI, Steve.French@, 215.513.7300, x214,,

Page 20 of 39« First...10...1819202122...30...Last »
gff_ads_pos1 gff_ads_pos2 gff_ads_pos3

Recent Posts

Recent Comments


Recent Tags

Copyright© Global Food Forums®, Inc 2018 / all rights reserved