Defining a Trend, then Enforcing It

Posted on:September 28, 2015
Catherine Adams Hutt on GMOs and consumer perceptions.

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September 16, 2015, Global Food Forums — The following is an excerpt from the “2015 Clean Label Report,” sponsored by Loders Croklaan, RiceBran Technologies and SunOpta.

Catherine Adams Hutt, Ph.D., RD, CFS, Principal at RdR Solutions, and Chief Science & Regulatory Officer at Sloan Trends, sorted through the current state of various industry terminology in her presentation “Coming Clean: What Clean Label Means for Consumers and Industry.”

Starting with “clean label,” Adams Hutt stated simply that there currently is no regulatory or legal definition, nor are there enforcement concerns.

“The term is defined by the consumers and stakeholders,” she said, citing retailers, like Whole Foods, Safeway, Trader Joe’s and Kroger, which all have concrete definitions. Groups like Clean Label Magazine and certain ingredient vendors have als offered definitions, including banned ingredients and processes.

There’s likewise no regulatory definition for “natural,” although the FDA has been clear in its expectation. FDA’s website states, “It is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural,’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth.” That said, the agency hasn’t objected to the use of the term if the food contains no added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances.

Conversely, USDA reviews meat and poultry labels with the term “natural” on virtually a daily basis, and approves or disapproves labels according to their labeling standards. The USDA issued industry guidance in 2013 by stating it allows “agricultural materials that are chemically changed due to allowed agricultural processing methods (e.g., cooking, baking, etc.)” to be classified as natural, but “heating or burning of non-biological matter to cause a chemical reaction” will be considered synthetic. It also states that natural foods cannot be transformed into a different substance via chemical change; altered into a form that doesn’t occur in nature; or separated/isolated/extracted using synthetic materials.

The “natural” claim is the most controversial and has been enforced primarily through civil lawsuits. Companies have been sued by special interest groups and competitors for labeling products as “natural” when they contain ingredients including GMOs, erythritol, maltodextrin, HFCS, sodium benzoate, synthetic ascorbic acid and hydrogenated oils, among others.

Coloring and preservatives are worth noting, too, because—though they can be natural (e.g., beets, vinegar)—they aren’t permitted in a “natural” labeled food product but are allowed in a “clean label” one. One approach to achieving natural status for a product that uses acidulants, for example, is to use the ingredient for flavoring, Adams Hutt said. Citric acid can be used to add flavor– and may have antimicrobial properties—but that is not the purpose for which it is used.

The slope gets even more slippery when comparing organic and clean label. The National Organic Program (NOP) allows the use of some compounds for “organic” foods that might not be considered to be “clean label,” such as potassium bicarbonate, ammonium bicarbonate, calcium hydroxide and xanthan gum. Of the three terms, “organic” is the most clearly defined and regulated. The NOP heads that charge and doesn’t permit bioengineered ingredients (GMOs).

“The simplest way to differentiate the terms,” Adams Hutt noted, “is that ‘organic’ pertains to a food’s origin, and ‘natural’ is what happens after it’s grown or made.”

A few ingredients have been blacklisted from ingredient lists simply due to “bad PR,” in Adams Hutt’s estimation. In the case of carrageenan, a researcher at the University of Illinois in 2008 claimed it degrades into toxic poligeenan, promotes inflammation and increases the risk of disease. These allegations have not been proven in humans, and the FDA officially rejected a petition in 2012—with the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) likewise verifying the safety of carrageenan—but this doesn’t stop the historical negative public communications.

Meanwhile, xanthan gum, which could be considered a “natural” ingredient due to its origin and processing, has been blacklisted by Whole Foods, Safeway and Kroger, simply because of its “chemical-resembling” moniker.

Catherine Adams Hutt, Ph.D., RD, CFS, RdR Solutions,, 1-630-605-3022, and Chief Science and Regulatory Officer, Sloan Trends,

Clean Label: A Shifting Global Trend

Posted on:September 9, 2015

2015 Clean Label Report

Strong global consumer demands and the desire for operational and distribution efficiencies drive interest in foods with simple, easy-to-understand ingredients. Advances in food science help food manufacturers reach this goal. On March 31-April 1, 2015, Global Food Forums, Inc.’s Clean Label Conference technical program drew a record 220 registrants. Eleven expert, non-commercial speakers delivered practical formulation advice on developing foods with simple, consumer-friendly ingredients. The first of the speakers was Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation, Innova Market Insights. The following summary is also included in the 2015 Clean Label Conference Special Report accessable by clicking the above link or by visiting Global Food Forums, Inc.’s Clean Label Conference Store.

Clean Label: A Shifting Global Trend

Innova Market Insights' Lu Ann Williams tracked global new product launches in her 2015 Clean Label Conference presentation

Global New Product Launches with Buzzwords (Click on image for larger version of the chart.) 

September 9, 2015, Global Food Forums — The following is an excerpt from the “2015 Clean Label Report,” sponsored by Loders Croklaan, RiceBran Technologies and SunOpta.

According to Innova Market Insights, the “clean label” trend definition has officially shifted to “clear label.” However, Innova’s Head of Research, Lu Ann Williams, wonders if it has evolved even further. “Maybe it’s ‘clean conscience’ or ‘clear conscience.’ It’s about wanting to feel good about what we eat,” she said during her presentation, “The Global Clean Label Phenomena: Trends, Insights & Implications.”

Innova’s latest data shows that consumers believe clean label means no preservatives (49%), no artificial flavors (47%), no artificial colors (39%) and no artificial sweeteners (35%). But this is only a narrow part of the consumer mindset, Williams said.

Consumers are demanding more clarity, in general. Looking around the globe, it’s easy to see what’s to come. As of April 2015, meat providers in Europe have to indicate the animal’s country of rearing and slaughter. In Australia, there’s a proposal to clear confusion on labels that would require a product with more than 50% imported ingredients to be labeled “made in Australia with mostly imported ingredients.”

“This isn’t happening here [in the U.S.] yet,” Williams noted, “but it is coming.”

Though not a new trend, brevity and understandability of ingredient labels are still paramount. A growing number of consumers find it important to recognize most of the names on ingredient lists, with Australia (71%), UK and France (68%), and China (65%) leading the charge–and the U.S. (37%) catching up.

In terms of verbiage, a few buzzwords, in particular, have made big gains in recent years. Innova tracked global new product launches (NPL) that used the terms “real,” “wholesome,” “pure” and “raw” from 2010-2014. Instances of “real” and “wholesome” have risen 52 and 88%, while pure and raw went up 106 and 141%, respectively.

“Naturally sweet” and “naturally occurring sugars” are growing, as well, with global NPLs in this arena increasing by 145% from 2010-2014. Examples include candy products using “real fruit” claims and soft drinks like Pepsi—which re-launched in June 2014 using prominent “made with real sugar” labels.

Similarly, the “superfood” label claim continues to grow, especially in cereals, where NPL instances saw 372% growth since 2009. A few other terms of interest are paleo, for unprocessed foods; and cold-pressed, for juices and veggie drinks. “Paleo” was mentioned five times more on NPLs in 2014 than 2013, and “cold-pressed” appeared four times as often in 2014 compared to 2010.

A growing number of consumers are interested in animal welfare and additives. More than half of Europeans reported the claims “GMO-free” and “grown without pesticides” as very important when they shop. Natural coloring is another area that’s of increasing interest, and it will become a new standard, Williams said.

The penetration of all food products with natural colors has gone from 14.5% in 2010 to 17% in 2014 globally, while artificially colored products slid to just 3.9% in 2014. Preservative- and additive-free labels are likewise becoming an industry standard, Williams added, with many new products placing the claim on the front of the label. This is especially popular in baby foods and soups, as more than a third of them had “no additives/preservatives” claims on their labels in 2014 (39 and 33%, respectively).

“The rules are shifting, so it’s a very interesting time—but also very challenging for the industry to adapt to changing consumer demands,” she said.

Lu Ann Williams, Head of Research at Innova Market Insights,, +31.26.319.2000,


Inspiring Insights & Visions for the Future Conference

Posted on:May 15, 2015
Consumer traditionally shopping for food

The Food Leaders Summit provided insights into changes in how consumers purchase foods and what it means for manufacturers.

I can be a bit jaded at time, but also become really excited about learning experiences…especially when I I’m offered new ways of thinking about a topic or when am introduced to a concept I had not considered before…especially when it helps me in my life or business.

I was privileged to attend Food Processing’s Food Leaders Summit 2015 in April in Chicago. While the niche of our Global Food Forums’ events generally focus on hands-on technical information for bench to mid-level technical staffs involved in the development of protein-enhanced, clean label or value-added/cost managed formulas, this event provided insights that explored the frontiers of food innovation. Speakers provided rare but important insights into factors impacting the future.

While there appears to be a plethora of conferences on innovation this day, the uniqueness of this event was exemplified by its Keynote speaker, Vance Crowe, Director of Millennial Engagement, Monsanto, who spoke on “Facing the Restless Generation” Finding what it Takes to Connect with Millennials.” Wow, whether you agree with that company’s tactics or not, being able to actually listen to what some would consider “the dark side,” was an unusual opportunity and perhaps innovative in itself!

Crowe said that while the company was good at talking with the farmers who trusted them, they were poor at communicating with Millennials with whom they have no direct contact. He indicated the desire for students to learn about farming and the difficulty they are having by noting that “there is standing room only at university lectures on how to communicate about the science of agriculture.”

A lively Q&A session ensued. One interesting question among many was “Why do people accept science in medicine and other fields, but not in food?” Crowe’s response was that people can more easily see the benefit. Farmers, for example, see the benefits of GMO Crops because they went from spraying with herbicides from 16 times a season down to two. However, consumers just know GMOs are in their foods but can’t see any benefits for themselves.

Continuing on that theme and next up on the podium was a panel consisting of Charlie Arnot, CEO, The Center for Food Integrity; Teresa Paulsen, VP Communication & External Relations, ConAgra Foods; Joe Berman, Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility, Price Chopper Supermarkets and Sue McCloskey, Co-founded, Fair Oaks Farms.

Arnot pointed out that the days when food companies took the attitude “We have nothing to hide and it’s none of your business” needs to be over. This doesn’t build trust. McCloskey concurred with “It is best just to explain to consumers what you are doing in a clear and honest way…including, for example, what happens to cows at the end of their ability to produce.”

In another presentation, Joel D. Warady, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Enjoy Life Foods, spoke on gluten free. He noted that while the U.S. has its Top 8 allergens, Canada has a Top 12 and Europe also includes lupin and celery as major allergens. He noted that in 1990 some 4 in 50 children had allergies and in 2010 it had risen to 1 in 10. One theory has been that as a culture, we have been too hygienic* (or as Warady said “over-Purelled”) however, he also felt that “something has changed in our food supply but we don’t know what it is.” [* To find a plethora of great discussions and research on this concept, just Google “hygiene hypothesis.”]

Barbara Stuckey, EVP Sales & Marketing, Matson, presented four fundamental trends among consumers today, as follows.

  1. Set it and Forget it. Consumers are increasingly subscribing to foods online where they arrange to have certain items regularly mailed to them without needing to reorder every month. Amazon has this system, for example.
  2. Scratch Cooking. It’s not just about the food, but about the experience and meant for special occasions. For example Blue Apron is a half a billion dollar company that sells a “subscription box” that contains a raw protein, produce, seasoning, pasta/grains, etc. that would be needed for a meal. Stuckey noted that it was neither convenient nor inexpensive (although economy was gained in that there was no waste in purchases).
  3. Breaking Down Silos. Retailer aisles are mattering less as more people shop online. For example, in order to make tacos, a consumer would have to get tomatoes, tacos shells, meat and so on from different aisles in a store. In contrast, Amazon Fresh allows consumers to click on a recipe and all the ingredients need are automatically added to your shopping cart (and Amazon likely will put in the items on which they get better margins).
  4. Food on Demand/ Digital Delivery. In the past, you had to go to a restaurant or order delivery from a restaurant over the phone. There are now a number of services that will shop or make the food for you and deliver the food. They are severing the relationship between the consumer and the retail store.


“What does this mean for manufacturers?” asked Stuckey. For one, your product must be “screen evident” as consumer review photos of products online that they are considering to purchase. This is opposed to “shelf evident” which was the requirement when shoppers cruised the grocery aisles.The above offers just a few comments on 3 days of excellent presentations.

When I asked Anju Holay, principal of NSM Research, which does a great deal of consulting on consumers and packaging, what she thought of the conference, she responded “I learned a lot. For me it was about things coming in the future, but it was more reality and more application than what I had thought it would be. For example, I sat in on a session on 3-D printing and was surprised how quickly the technology and its applications are advancing.”

Holay went on to detail how the event was useful for her own business. “Manufacturers have always struggled to get placement on grocery shelves. This may be less critical going into the future. A different set of challenges, such as “screen evident” versus “shelf evident” packaging needs to be considered.”

Opps! I almost forgot. Tthe venue in downtown Chicago was very pleasant and the food EXCELLENT!

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

The Creatine Cartel: The Good, Bad, and Ugly of the Sports Nutrition Market in Latin America

Posted on:January 13, 2015

The following presentation is from the “2014 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar: Business Strategies” Highlights.

Latin American economies are generally on the upswing, and the demand for nutritional supplements is at an all-time high. Certain supplements that retail for USD 35-40 per pound in the U.S. are hiked to as high as USD 110 per pound in some Latin American markets. This, combined with the stark contrast in the financial status between upper and lower classes, has led to the emergence of a black market, or “Creatine Cartel,” as Spanish Fitness Media CEO Kit Sanderson wryly called it.

This black market is so large, he said, that it is possible that roughly 50% of domestic supplement sales in the U.S. eventually find their way overseas.

“Although it’s a large market, after working for 15 years in the international sports nutrition industry, I can say that developing a market for a supplement isn’t exactly ‘an easy scoop of protein,’” he said.

Commonly observed practices include product counterfeiting, smuggling and aggressive price wars. Any harmonization of the marketplaces or cultures will improve the situation. “U.S. manufacturers in Latin America should be treating these issues as important as their own pulse,” Sanderson said.

“The Creatine Cartel: The Good, Bad, and Ugly of the Sports Nutrition Market in Latin America,” Kit Sanderson, CEO of Spanish Fitness Media LLC, and Editor of Muscular Development Latino

Protein Trends & Technologies: Consumer Protein Perceptions and Needs

Posted on:

The following presentation is from the “2014 Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar: Business Strategies” Highlights.

Upon analyzing several consumer surveys conducted at the end of 2013 and start of 2014, the global market research firm NPD Group found interesting differences in consumers’ perceptions and habits, when it comes to proteins. While consumer interest continues to rise, the sources and where they turn to find protein is evolving and depends dramatically on the type of consumer. In general, roughly half of consumers consider animal protein the best source of protein, followed by eggs (11%), dairy (10%), beans/lentils (8%), and items like protein bars and nuts (22%). Within the animal protein sector, the breakdown is beef (18%), chicken (17%), fish (10%), turkey (2%) and other (2%).

Interestingly, the trend in household animal meat consumption has been on a consistent decline since the early 1980s, according to NPD’s findings. “Much of this could be due to the economy or driven by convenience,” said Sue Fennelly, Director of Business Development, Food & Beverage Services. While beef is on top for now, household consumption of it has dropped significantly over the past few decades, whereas chicken and eggs have risen consistently during the same span.

Yogurt, once thought to be “the food of the decade,” because of its 12% rise between 2003-2011 (mostly due to Greek yogurt), has flat lined during the past three years.

To better understand the protein consumer, NPD broke down the data from primary household shoppers and categorized the shoppers into three distinct groups. The Traditional Protein Purists are mostly comprised of 50+ year-old, empty nesters that shop at traditional grocers. This group firmly believes meat is the best source of protein and is less interested in new sources of protein.

Flexible Protein Users, however, eat protein at a very high rate (85% daily); are more likely to be female; and are more vigilant researchers when it comes to their groceries. They’re very willing to switch to new proteins and often shop at high-end grocers.

The Knowledgeable-but-Indifferent group resides somewhere in the middle. It is composed primarily of Millennials—only half of which eat protein every day and don’t seem bothered by that fact—and are more likely to shop at discount outlets. Importantly, this group believes protein-enriched products are just as good as naturally present ones.

“Protein Trends & Technologies: Consumer Protein Perceptions and Needs,” Sue Fennelly, Director of Business Development, Food & Beverage Services, NPD Group

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