Do your research. That was the main take away from Saturday’s IBIEducate session “The No Funky Stuff Revolution in a Clean Label World,” presented by Jon Davis, senior vice-president of culinary innovation, ARYZTA North America, and Greg Tompkins, senior vice-president, ARYZTA North America.
As La Brea Bakery and Otis Spunkmeyer brands reformulated for clean label, both Mr. Davis and Mr. Tompkins wished they had done more research first, both into the process and consumer demand. “I would have done the research ahead of time before making the announcement,” Mr. Davis said of La Brea’s move to pursuing Non-GMO Project Verified status. “That way we could control when we initiated it. We didn’t understand the paperwork, and we thought it would be simple because our ingredient deck is so simple.”
The volume of paperwork required by regulatory bodies was enormous, for both achieving Non-GMO Project verification for La Bread and making the No Funky Stuff claims on Otis Spunkmeyer’s products. No Funky Stuff eliminated partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and artificial colors and flavors. La Brea Bakery found that it had to document down to the feed being fed to the cows from which their cheese came, and for Otis Spunkmeyer, the source of beta carotene in the margarine had to be confirmed from a natural, not synthetic, source.
“It’s a daunting task,” Mr. Davis said. “Suppliers are key to this whole transition because of the documentation you require from them is enormous, and quite frankly, a lot of suppliers don’t want to deal with it. We’ve had to find new suppliers in some cases.”
And it’s not just the research about the process of reformulating or gaining a new certification that’s important. Consumer research can tell a company if clean label reformulation is going to be worth it in the end. For Otis Spunkmeyer, an indulgent brand, it was discovered that going clean label wasn’t always worth it.
“What we found is those who are buying our higher-end products responded very well to the switch, but those consumers in a more price-conscious tier of our cookies weren’t as interested in clean label as the value propositions,” Mr. Tompkins said. This resulted in a bifurcated Otis Spunkmeyer product offering. Premium indulgence cookies and muffins fall under the No Funky Stuff label, but the company has made no plans to reformulate its value products.
Formulating, on the other hand, was not the challenge one might have anticipated. Otis Spunkmeyer’s R&D team found that switching to natural flavors and away from HFCS was fairly simple. “The government took care of PHOs for us right after we started the project so that was wonderful,” Mr. Tompkins said. “Changing from an artificial to a natural color is where we found it surprisingly hard because they just don’t behave in a cookie or muffin the way you would expect.”