On the edge of clean label
Determining whether an ingredient may be used in a product, without damaging the product’s clean label credentials, may run into a problem. Definitions of clean label vary. Retail outlets, food service chains, food companies and ingredient suppliers all may have different definitions, as might each individual consumer.
The situation means some ingredients, like autolyzed yeast extracts, leavening acids and certain gums, may meet one definition but not the other.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, placed ingredients in four tiers when recommending priorities in clean label formulations (see related story on Page 49). Added sugars and added salt are examples of tier 1 ingredients, meaning they pose health concerns because of excessive amounts consumed.
Those ingredients in tier 4 may be described as being on the edge of clean label. The C.S.P.I. said tier 4 ingredients might be poorly tested or have other safety issues, including allergic or hypersensitivity reactions. Autolyzed yeast extracts, monk fruit extract and certain gums are tier 4 examples.
Biospringer North America, Milwaukee, defends the clean label qualifications of its yeast extracts.
“Yeast extracts are natural ingredients used to improve the taste and sensory properties of food as well as tools for assisting food developers for producing healthier foods that have lower sodium, sugar and fat,” said George R. Parman, director of the company. “Biospringer yeast extracts are produced through a fermentation of either baker’s yeast or brewer’s yeast. Baker’s yeast is a common ingredient used in baking. It can be found in many household kitchen cupboards. Consumers do understand it and relate to it as a wholesome and natural ingredient.
“We recommend to our customers to label yeast extracts as either ‘baker’s yeast extract’ or ’brewer’s yeast extract’ to give a sense of origin of the ingredient as well as transparency.”
Yeast extracts contain protein, but they do not require allergen labeling in the United States, he said.
Acacia gum, guar gum and xanthan gum are some other tier 4 ingredients.
TIC Gums, Inc., White Marsh, Md., has developed a chart that shows what gums and other hydrocolloids are non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O., organic and allowed in products sold at Whole Foods Market or Panera Bread Co. or in Kroger’s Simple Truth line.
Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., completed its acquisition of TIC Gums on Jan. 3.
“This acquisition propels us into a new era of on-trend texture development with even more solutions for organic and clean label demands,” said Ilene Gordon, chairman and chief executive officer for Ingredion, when the deal was announced Dec. 20, 2016.
Leavening acids are examples of ingredients that may qualify as clean label in some instances and not in others, said John P. Sawicki, director of R.&D. and Q.C. for Bread Partners, Inc., Cinnaminson, N.J.
“When used as leavening acids, they would be clean label as there are no viable replacements,” Mr. Sawicki said. “When used as an acidifier, they may not be clean label as there are other clean alternatives.”
Canadean, now known as GlobalData Consumer, in March 2016 released a study that found 34% of respondents said they did not know what “clean label” means. Another 36% said it meant free from artificial ingredients, and 34% said natural/organic claims. Melanie Felgate, senior consumer insight analyst, said “clean label” is more of an industry term used to reflect the growing shift in consumer mindset toward products that are “cleaner” in terms of their ingredients or production methods.
Many definitions of clean label are circulating throughout the industry, said Victoria Stencel, global category marketing director, texturants for Tate & Lyle, P.L.C. and based in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
“At Tate & Lyle, we are seeing consumers become more interested in learning about the quality and nutritional benefits of their food,” she said. “So, to us, clean label means ingredients that consumers understand and recognize with fewer ingredients, free of artificial additives.”
Kathy Sargent, market director, bakery for Corbion, said, “There is no board that dictates whether a product is clean label or not. The definition of ‘clean label’ is still largely open to interpretation. While perceptions vary on the true definition, for most, clean label and transparency involves the fewest number of ingredients and contains nothing harmful or overly processed.”