Troy Boutte, senior bakery scientist, DuPont Nutrition & Health.

Clean label formulating comes with a cost, at least financial and sometimes in product quality as well. To help bakers understand how clean label formulating has improved and how to best manage those costs, Mark Cornthwaite, marketing manager, and Troy Boutte, senior bakery scientists, both with DuPont Nutrition & Health, led a session at this year’s American Society of Baking (ASB) BakingTech conference in Chicago, “Meeting the Clean Label Challenge with Enzymes.”

During Monday’s technical breakout sessions, Mr. Cornthwaite opened the clean label session showing bakers through research how consumers really shop for clean label products. With clean label formulating being a costly endeavor, formulating in the dark without this knowledge can get expensive and sometimes not be as profitable as bakers were hoping. Through three studies Mr. Cornthwaite cited, he showed that while clean label may be top-of-mind for many consumers, it is balanced out with a need to appease the need for desirable tastes. “People are trying to do their very best, but they have to make compromises,” he explained.

Mr. Cornthwaite was also surprised to discover in the findings that when confronted with individual ingredients deemed undesirable by the clean label consumer, many did not avoid the product because of individual ingredients such as DATEM or monoglyceride. “The numbers were much lower than expected, by which I mean you would not necessarily avoid purchasing a product if it contained those ingredients,” Mr. Cornthwaite said.  

Furthermore, DuPont was able to divide consumers into six different segments in regard to clean label attitudes, discovering there is a market for different levels of clean label formulating. While there is definitely a market for the cleanest of formulations and consumers willing to pay the higher prices for those products, there are also healthy markets for traditional formulations and cleaner labels or lean labels. By understanding which segment of the marketplace a baker is targeting, he or she can control the cost of formulation by not formulating to just the right amount of clean, Mr. Boutte said.

While clean label may still be a challenge, formulations have more tools to work with today to help meet the right level of clean formulating. “I formulated my first natural clean label bread products a little more than 20 years ago,” Mr. Boutte said. “At that time we didn’t have many tools available to us and every three or four years, it gets a little bit better. The enzymes get a little bit more tolerant.”

Lipases is a category of enzymes, Mr. Boutte declared as relative newcomers to the clean label game. “When I started doing this work, lipases were really in their infancy.” These enzymes modify the lipids naturally occurring in the flour, producing internal emulsifiers. Lipases also work synergistically, he said, with lecithin to improve these formulations’ abilities to run on high-speed equipment.

Lipases join amylase, xylanase and oxidative enzymes as ingredients bakers can use to improve dough handling, increase volume and improve crumb structure, softness and resilience.

While these enzymes may be effective, they and other clean label ingredients can drive up the products’ cost. Mr. Boutte suggested bakers formulate only to the degree to match the consumer segment they are targeting. “Don’t make the product cleaner than it has to be,” he said. “Or consider a leaner label, keeping the most functional ingredients and shortening the label.”

Other ways to contain the cost of clean label he recommended was replacing fermentates with natamycin for effective mold inhibiting. By declaring parenthetically on the product packaging that natamycin is a natural mold inhibitor, bakers can educate the consumer on an otherwise artificial-sounding ingredient name.

While clean label can offer bakers opportunity for growth in new market segments, this trend doesn’t come without its cost and manufacturing challenges.

“That’s the challenge with clean label, the bread and ingredients need tolerance to run on equipment,” Mr. Boutte said. And as enzymes and the knowledge about them continue to evolve, clean label products continue to improve in this regard.