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The Grocer takes a closer look at ‘Clean Label’ product development

12 December 2018

Froghop’s founder, Melanie Loades, was recently interviewed by The Grocer magazine for a piece on the trend towards Clean Label product development. Here’s a summary of the article and a recap on what it all means.

So what is Clean Label?

In 2008, journalist and activist, Michael Pollan wrote the New York Times bestseller ‘In Defence of Food’ which told us: “Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.” These guidelines have evolved to become the clean label movement.

Shades of grey around the term

“It’s a marketing term, not a legal term, and there are lots of shades of grey around this,” Melanie told The Grocer. “[If a client asks for a clean label product] I make assumptions then run them past them to check they’re correct. For instance, I would think they’d want natural, which is clearly defined as something which can be physically processed, like squeezing the juice out of an apple or drying an apple into slices, but that can’t be chemically modified.”

“There are lots of things above and beyond which may get blended into clean label like organic, Fairtrade or low carbon footprint. All lovely things that can potentially help a consumer feel it’s ‘clean’.”

While it’s open to interpretation, there are some clear no-nos. The list of ‘unclean’ ingredients includes:

  • artificial colours and flavours
  • preservatives
  • trans-fats, and
  • GM foods

Terminology should stay simple

The article explores how producers should label these foods and the consensus appears to be simplicity over exactness. After all, while there is a push for greater transparency about what goes into our food, consumers need to understand what’s on the label. Moreover, in some ways this is as much about perception, process and approach, as the ingredients themselves.

A good example is Vitamin C: “A brand could choose to include an ingredient naturally rich in vitamin C like acerola cherries (clean) or they could add pure vitamin C which has been chemically extracted or put together synthetically (potentially unclean).

“Whichever option they choose they can use the term vitamin C on the label – without clogging it up by stating they are using sodium sorbate as a legally allowed form of the vitamin.

“The irony in all this is that I could use vitamin C in the form of sodium sorbate and it would be the same molecule whether I added it as a synthetic compound, a direct extract or in its natural form,” Melanie says.

Last year, we wrote about the rise of Clean Label products. Consumers are making purchasing decisions regardless of clever marketing or governmental guidelines and it’s clear that they’re reading labels and demanding higher quality. What’s more, they are willing to pay more for what they perceive to be cleaner, more ethical products.

If you want to know more about Clean Label product development, contact us to talk about your options.

Banner: Froghop talks to The Grocer about Clean Label product development