Meeting the demand for clean label

by Sean Riley, PMMI
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Clean label shopper
More than 75% of consumers won’t buy food without first checking the label.

RESTON, VA. — With the amount of nutritional and ingredient information available on today’s packages, many consumers would be surprised to hear that nutrition labeling was not required by law in the United States until Congress passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) (Public Law 101-535) in 1990. In the 26 years since the bill passed however, nutritional labels have grown to become the first stop when consumers ponder a purchase.

In fact, more than 75% of consumers won’t buy food without first checking the label, and for the overwhelming majority of them label cleanliness is truly next to godliness, according to the 2017 Trends in Food Processing Operations Market Research Report. Recently released by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, the report tabs clean labels as the third biggest consumer trend behind only convenience and nutritional value. Within the baking and snack sector it is also third behind artisan baking and healthy choices but ahead of new flavors, gluten free, portion control servings and sustainable ingredients.

Thirty-seven per cent of U.S. consumers find it important to understand ingredients on food labels with 91% believing that products with recognizable ingredients are healthier.

“Clean labeling has drastically affected our industry,” said one process engineer quoted in the report. “We are answering the consumer need to be as ‘fresh’ as possible, but still be able to extend shelf life.”

In total, nearly half of the participants interviewed for the report indicated a direct impact on their processing operations as a result of clean labeling. Consumers are demanding natural colors and flavor additives as well as less “scientific-sounding” preservatives.

This, coupled with the banning of partially hydrogenated oils (pho), is causing some extended shelf life chemicals to become obsolete. To achieve clean labels, food processors are removing ingredients found to be unsafe and reformulating with healthier sustainable ingredients. Fortified food additives are growing in use to supplement food with calcium, protein, iron, vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.

“Clean labeling has led to lots of research and development to achieve a variety of formulations and new product rollouts,” said an engineering manager in the snack food industry who participated in the study.

As the demand for clean labeling increases the processing and packaging industries need insight into the latest innovations and technology. For more information or to register for PMMI events, visit www.pmmi.org

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