Will consumers pay more for clean label products?

22 March 2017

The clean label movement is driven by consumers who want to avoid particular ingredients or those they don’t understand. Recent research has suggested the majority of people are prepared to pay more for food or drink made with ingredients they trust.

73% will pay more for clean label

The study of 1,300 consumers – run by Ingredient Communications – surveyed people in all age groups in Europe, the US and Asia. It found that that 73% of consumers were willing to pay more for products made with ingredients they trusted. It also found that:

  • more than half of consumers would spend over 10% more if the product contained ingredients they recognised and trusted
  • a fifth said they would pay 75% or more extra
  • 76% said they would be more likely to buy a product with such ingredients

What does this mean for food producers? It underlines the importance of choosing familiar ingredients and making sure their labelling is clear and straightforward. Some consumers think of clean label ingredients being ones they could buy themselves.

Where did Clean Label come from?

In 2008, journalist and activist, Michael Pollan wrote the book In Defence of Food. A New York Times bestseller, it suggested rules for eating including: “Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.” These instructions fed into what became the clean label movement.

A clean label is defined as one that uses transparent language (no jargon or overly scientific/complex names). However, the concept of clean labelling refers also to the product itself being ‘clean’. This means it would contain no artificial or ingredients commonly considered ‘bad’ by the consumer. It can also signify natural ingredients.

But what does that mean in practice?

When we’re developing a recipe, we already take a wide range of factors into consideration – shelf life, taste, texture, sensory impact, cost, air miles, nutrition, dietary requirements and more. For food manufacturers, clean label is another cost-benefit equation they need to work with. For example, if a producer wanted to achieve longer shelf-life for a fruit drink, we’d look at ways of reducing the pH. We’d typically achieve that by adding citric acid but the clean label version would use whole lemon or lemon juice.

The list of ‘unclean’ ingredients typically focuses on artificial colours and flavours, preservatives, trans-fats and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It’s about making choices about the type of ingredients you choose. As always, producers need to know and understand what options they have when it comes to ingredients and their impact on their products.

Co-branding could support clean label

One trend that the research also found was for co-branded ingredients – that is, naming the ingredient supplier that than just a generic ingredient. It was felt that this might be a way to develop consumer trust and, ultimately, loyalty. Making this type of commitment to one ingredient supplier shouldn’t be made lightly as it will reduce your ability to negotiate and achieve the best price. However, the flipside is that there might be an opportunity to create a great product that resonates with consumers willing to pay for premium product.

Even sweet treats can benefit

Even treat foods such as cakes and dairy-based desserts can benefit from a cleaner ingredients list. The research found that terms such as ‘natural’ and ‘additive-free’ made these products more appealing. Overall consumers were less concerned about the ingredients in treats, perhaps accepting that they consumed less frequently.

Maintaining taste and texture

Clean label credentials should not come at the expense of taste or texture. This was a high priority amongst those surveyed. The challenge for producers is to deliver clean-label products that taste great. It’s a challenge that we’re used to working through at Froghop.

A first step to ‘cleaning up’ might include a review of the ingredients list to see where items can be simplified or the naming made friendlier. Next, consider investigating alternative ingredients to include the more natural or less refined. A development day can be a great way to do some intensive testing, tasting and development of your recipe.

If you would like support revisiting your labelling or your product’s ingredients, we can help. Contact us today.