The food industry is continuing to evolve and we are seeing a rapid growth in companies working to simplify the ingredients in its food products. According to data from the Natural Marketing Institute, 62% of consumers said they seek foods that are minimally processed and 53% prefer foods and beverages that contain a short list of ingredients that are recognizable.
Small- to medium-sized companies started adapting its products to meet the consumer demand and the trend has recently emerged in big food companies. Nestlé and The Hershey Company both announced in February 2015 plans to reformulate products to meet the consumer demand for simpler ingredients. After that, more and more companies have climbed on board. The trend has trickled into the foodservice channel—in the past month, both Panera Bread Co. and Noodles Co. announced plans to “clean up” their menus and just this week, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut both announced their plans to update their menus by the end of 2016 with foods that contain simple ingredients.
The term, simple ingredients, is fairly new in the industry and has transpired from the terms clean label and clear label. Clean label has often been used to describe a label that has a relatively small number of “natural” ingredients and is without artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Clear label has been used to describe a label that uses only necessary and familiar ingredients with clearer and simpler claims and transparency regarding ingredients.
Simple ingredients will be dictated by consumer education around the foods they are eating. One thing that we know is how big of a role social media and the Internet plays in how consumers stay informed about the products and the ingredients that they are consuming. They have an abundance of information at their fingertips, and as we noted in our series, Food Science vs. Food Babe—Who Controls the Story, the information they are receiving is often misrepresented. One way to prevent consumers from being misinformed is to have a label that provides them with accurate and descriptive language.
Food ingredient marketers can play a large role in helping food manufacturers and foodservice operators provide consumers the information they need around the products they are consuming. Incorporating definitions and labels around each ingredient or formulation being marketed can make labeling finished goods more turnkey for food manufacturers and foodservice operators. Rather than defining a particular ingredient as a preservative, for example, it would be helpful to note the specific function that preservatives have such as “to protect the color” or “to preserve the freshness,” whatever that may be.
While it sounds simple, it’s definitely understood that there is a lot that goes into reformulating products and ensuring the ingredients being used will meet the “simple ingredients” demand set forth by consumers. But, as consumers continue to read and have a better understanding of labels, the trend will be ongoing and will drive what foods are purchased, which will trickle down to the ingredients used to formulate them.
So, as food ingredient marketers, communications around the ingredient products being marketed and defining the benefits of each will be key in helping food manufacturers and foodservice operators stay ahead in the market.