CHICAGO — For companies wanting to take advantage of the clean or simple label trend, introducing a new product might make more sense than reformulating an existing product, said Theresa Cogswell, owner of BakerCogs, Inc., a consulting company based in the Kansas City area, in a March 3 session at the American Society of Baking’s BakingTech 2014 in Chicago.
“My personal belief is, if you’re running a bakery, a high-speed bakery, it would be easier to do clean label on a new product than it would be to do on an existing product,” Ms. Cogswell said. “And that’s for many, many reasons, whether that’s in the plant where all the operators are used to the dough running this way, and all of a sudden, it’s moving that way.”
Going clean label is not a cost-neutral solution, she said. Since a clean label will cost more in production, the product on the retail shelf will cost more, too. Companies should ask whether the brand with the clean label product is skewed to people with a higher income or higher education.
“I think those are the folks that are going to pay the price for clean label,” Ms. Cogswell said.
Consumers that buy private label sandwich bread because they make 10 sandwiches a day to feed their children may not pay that price.
Ms. Cogswell in her presentation showed videos of clean label issues in the news. They included the “Food Babe” blogger Vani Hari taking a bite out of a yoga mat to symbolize how azodicarbonamide (ADA) is in both yoga mats and bread, Chic-fil-A saying it will serve antibiotic-free chicken products, and Kraft announcing it will remove artificial preservatives from single process cheese slices. Such media as “Good Morning America” have reported on clean labels, but no one in the mainstream media has explained the costs and other issues associated with going clean label, Ms. Cogswell said.
“No one, no one asks the next question: What are downstream effects of taking this out?” Ms. Cogswell said. “These are very credible sources in the media world, and none of them asked the next question. No one cared.”
She said a clean label ingredient legend for a bread product might include only whole wheat flour, water, honey, soybean oil, salt, yeast and enzymes.
“That’s pretty hard to do for those of us sitting in the room running our bakeries at the levels and the rates we do,” she said. “I can make all the bread you want at 30 loaves a minutes clean label. But when you add 100 to that, or 200 to that number, it’s a whole different ballgame.”
It is possible to make clean label products, but Ms. Cogswell said she wondered if people will pay the price for clean label products.
“I believe that the shopper will define it with their dollars,” she said.
If an ingredient sounds like a chemical or is something they cannot spell, consumers probably will not consider it clean label, Ms. Cogswell said.
“Ultimately, it’s going to be defined by your customer, whether that’s Wal-Mart or Harris Teeter, and the consumer that shops in (their) store,” Ms. Cogswell said.