Health Consciousness and the Rise of the Clean Label
By Devane Sharma
Consumers are becoming more mindful about what they consume and are therefore increasingly reading the back of product labels more carefully. While diet-conscious consumers are known to study nutritional value information, more consumers are also starting to do the same. Consumers are looking out for ingredients perceived to be healthful, ingredients they want to avoid that are deemed harmful to health, and sustainability claims made by manufacturers.
Defining the Clean Label
The broad marketing term ‘clean label’ is a growing trend. While there are no established regulatory or legal definitions of a clean label, six out of ten consumers feel that ‘clean’ claims align with greater ‘healthfulness.’ According to the Institute for Food Technologists, a clean label means making a product using as few ingredients as possible and making sure those ingredients are items that consumers recognize and regard as wholesome1. A broader definition focuses on greater transparency in food ingredient labeling.
What Clean Labelling Means to Consumers
The interpretation of wholesomeness is broad, but the most common interpretations revolve around nutritious food being made with as few ingredients as possible, to being contaminant-free, and made with sustainably and ethically-sourced ingredients. The US-based Clean Label Project examines food and beverage products for contaminants such as pesticides.
On the point of sustainability, some consumers lookout for product certifications. These include non-GMO, certified plant-based, and certification labels such as Fairtrade-certified Cocoa or Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified.
Underpinning all of this is a desire for transparency and clarity, as consumers would naturally be skeptical of what they don’t understand. According to a global consumer survey by Innova Market Insights in 2020, six in ten consumers are interested in learning more about the origins of their food2.
Implications and Opportunities for Food Producers
The growing interest presents both challenges and opportunities for food producers. The global clean label ingredients market is expected to be valued at $51.14 billion by 20243.
Generic claims such as “all-natural” or “naturally-derived” without substantiated specifics should be avoided. Such claims without specifics are likely to be seen as insincere or an attempt at hiding undesirable ingredients.
As the emphasis is on providing consumers with transparent and clear information, it may not mean that all additives need to be removed. Instead, the source of such additives should be explained, including the environmental sustainability of the ingredients.
This presents an opportunity for ingredient story-telling by producers. It can be done by QR Codes for a “read-more” where consumers can learn about the origin of the ingredients used and why they are necessary. These features can also be extended to broader brand story-telling. If sustainability-certified ingredients such as Fairtrade cocoa or RSPO palm oil are used, they should also be explained to increase a product’s appeal.
Palm Oil and the Clean Label
Palm oil and palm kernel oil, extracted from oil palms, are used in the food industry to make cooking oils, shortenings, emulsifiers, and stabilizers. These oils and their derivatives are used in various food products, including bakery and beverages, and specialty fat derivatives are used to make products such as cocoa butter substitutes.
Palm and its derivatives can be congruent with the clean label drives. Palm-derived oils are naturally trans-fat-free as they are not partially hydrogenated. It is the most widely-consumed vegetable oil and has a natural balance of saturated and unsaturated fats. Musim Mas’ cultivation of oil palms is plant-based and also GMO-free.
Palm oil offers an alternative to trans fatty acids and hydrogenated vegetable oils. Its extraction from the palm fruit is done by expeller pressing, and this process is free of solvents in contrast to most seed and bean oil extraction processes.
Musim Mas is a leading vertically-integrated producer of palm oil and its derivatives. We offer RSPO-certified palm oil and derivatives. Having been part of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) since 2004 and the first palm oil major to be verified by the more stringent standards of the Palm Oil Innovation Group in 2019, Musim Mas prides itself on sustainability.
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