Demand for clean label baked goods and other foods has skyrocketed in recent years, as consumers try to eat more healthfully and to know more about what they’re eating.
But what exactly is clean label? Does it have to be organic or non-GMO? Is a “clean” label also an “extremely short” label, with a list of ingredients you can count on one hand?
Does clean label mean you can pronounce all the ingredients on the label — and likely find them in your own pantry? Are all such products free of artificial preservatives, colors and flavors?
The truth is, there is no one answer. What underlies them all is a commitment to simplicity, authenticity and natural ingredients. And what’s certain about clean label is that it’s here to stay.
“Across the industry, we’ve seen a 69% increase in products developed with cleaner labels and a 46% increase in reformulations to achieve certain free-from claims,” said Ashley Robertson, market manager for bakery for Lenexa, Kan.-based Corbion.
Like everything else in the food ingredient industry, the clean label trend is being driven by what Robertson calls “ingredient-conscious” consumers. Younger consumers in particular are looking for products with simplified ingredients and labels that are easy to understand. “They perceive these products to be free from harmful ingredients or anything overly processed, and therefore also fresher,” she said.
With millennials being the main drivers behind the trend, many have pushed for increased authenticity and transparency, along with more information that gives a clear understanding of where foods are sourced.
“The primary concerns have shifted from simply looking for products with short ingredient lists to incorporating more fresh, whole foods that are also easy to understand and free of unrecognizable ingredients or ones that sound like chemicals,” Robertson said.
Unlike this or that fad diet or nutrition buzzword, clean label isn’t going anywhere, experts say. As consumers increasingly seek greater transparency and products with ‘better for you’ claims that meet their health, wellness and dietary needs, the demand for clean-label products will only go up.
“Clean-label is no longer a trend; it’s an expectation,” Robertson said. “Consumers will continue to find comfort in knowing and understanding what’s in their foods.”
Despite these newer expectations, the old expectations — freshness, quality, taste, texture,consistency — are just as important as they’ve always been. Today’s consumers want it all, and they expect their baked goods and other foods to deliver.
Balancing clean label with those other “musts” isn’t easy, but Corbion is committed to helping its customers come up with solutions. It starts with building on the experience the company has gained through its long history.
“We’ve been using fermentation technology to create natural preservation solutions for nearly a century, but our clean-label portfolio has drastically expanded over the years to include a broader range of solutions for our customers’ specific needs,” Robertson said.
Corbion’s Pristine® line of clean-label dough improvers, cake mixes and frozen dough, for example,helps bakers remove unwanted ingredients like artificial preservatives, colors,flavors and chemical-sounding ingredients without compromising taste, texture or quality.
In particular, Robertson said, Corbion has solutions that allow for more control when it comes to consistency and less room for error while reducing keystrokes in ingredient labels by up to 42%. The company also has products that help bakers ensure the quality of non-GMO and organic formulations.
Corbion’s Verdad® line allows bakers to create great-tasting products without any “off” flavor or aftertastes. And while its naturally derived mold inhibitor, Verdad® MP100, may not have been the first clean-label solution on the market, it is the first to equal the performance of calcium propionate without affecting product flavor,which makes it a viable alternative for bakers, Robertson said.
“With Verdad® mold inhibitors,bakers get an effective, natural solution for mold inhibition so they can remove calcium propionate — something many consumers want to avoid — from their ingredient lists.”
Corbion’s Purac® FCC88 and Purac® Powder 60 solutions, meanwhile, allow bakers to regulate pH levels and enhance the performance of mold inhibitors while using simplified ingredients.
And by enhancing the tolerance,quality and shelf stability of baked goods, Corbion’s emulsifiers make it easier for bakers to overcome clean-label challenges. “We continually invest in our emulsifier portfolio to drive further advancements in finished product consistency, processing efficiency and overall business sustainability,”Robertson said.
By 2019, all palm oils used in Corbion’s products will be RSPO-certified and sourced from suppliers committed to minimizing negative impacts on palm-growing regions and their communities, a change that will be especially beneficial for bakers as clean-label demands continue to shift toward greater transparency and sustainability.
It isn’t always easy for bakers to minimize scaling errors and waste due to various environmental factors associated with ensuring the taste, texture and consistency of clean-label baked goods.
For example,changes in production processes or lack of skilled workers can play a big role in ensuring the overall quality or consistency of an application. Ingredients that don’t offer the same functionality as traditional ingredients can also impact the appearance of the end product, which can make it less desirable for consumers.
Solving these problems,Robertson said, involves listening closely to customers and understanding their clean-label goals, identifying their current operational and formulation challenges, and defining exactly what “clean” means to their target consumers.
“Our Pristine®, Verdad® and Purac® solutions help bakery manufacturers improve their bottom line and reduce formula costs by meeting clean-label demands and reducing the number of ingredients necessary for ensuring high-quality products.”
Corbion has other products to help bakers take steps toward implementing cleaner labels,including preservative-free pre-soaked grains and tried and non-GMO emulsifiers. Working directly with its customers to identify and implement the most fitting solutions allows Corbion to ensure the highest degree of success for its applications and consumer preferences.
Moving forward, experts expect to see a greater push for transparency, “free-from” formulations and customizable applications as consumers increasingly become aware of dietary restrictions and health concerns associated with certain ingredients.
As a food ingredient supplier that’s constantly at the forefront of innovation and sustainability, Corbion is already assessing how it can help its customers deliver on these demands while staying ahead of what’s next.
“Delivering a consistent product, protecting freshness and delivering a premium experience will continue to pose challenges for bakers,given increasing variability in the quality of raw materials and the scarcity of skilled labor across the industry,” Robertson said. “As a result, it’s important for bakers to have cost-effective solutions that help them simplify labels while ensuring overall quality and consistency.”
Corbion, she said, continually challenges itself to find new applications and market opportunities while delivering solutions that enable its customers to succeed. For instance, the company’s expanded Pristine® line and easy-to-use bakery blends — as well as its current food ingredient solutions —will continue to play a key role in helping bakers overcome those challenges.