According to ingredient supplier Kerry Ingredients (Beloit, WI), although there is some confusion about precisely what the term clean label means, that doesn’t mean consumers don’t have their own notions of what clean means. At this year’s SupplySide West show, Kerry highlighted the latest findings from its clean-label consumer research report. The report found that consumers’ ingredient concerns vary by age, though some “no-no” ingredients—like hydrogenated fats, MSG, and high-fructose corn syrup—were listed as top concerns among all age cohorts.
Orlaigh Matthews, strategic marketing manager, Kerry, told Nutritional Outlook at the show that the report, which features global data collected over the past year, will be released as three chapters. Each of the chapters—ingredients, nutrition, and sustainability—will explore a different facet of the clean-label movement. At the show, Kerry showcased its clean-label ingredient findings, and explained how manufacturers can make use of its proprietary consumer data.
According to the report, nearly 70% of ingredient-conscious consumers said that they read the label and Nutrition Facts panel of a product before purchasing it. The way consumers purchase, however, differs significantly by age. Baby Boomers, for example, are looking to remove “negatives” from their diets, Matthews explained. “They want to remove fat, sugar, salt, whereas Millennials are looking to add more positives into their diet.”
And, while there are consistencies in the ingredients deemed less-desirable across all age demographics, for manufacturers, the differences are worth noting. “[The consumer’s] purchase decision hinges on whether [a product] has, or doesn’t have, certain ingredients,” said Matthews. The top “no-no” ingredients were, consistently, high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats, and MSG; however, consumers aged 65 and above, for example, listed high-fructose corn syrup as their number one ingredient to avoid. Younger consumers listed hydrogenated fats as their number one ingredient to avoid, and consumers between the ages of 45-64 listed MSG as their primary concern.
Kerry also showcased two new ingredients that the company launched within the past year—both of which Matthews said have clean-label appeal. Kerry’s ProDiem plant protein ingredient, which is a combination of proteins, including pea, rice and oats, was created in response to growing consumer demand for plant proteins. Matthews said ProDiem’s improved texture, reduced flavor off-notes, and improved protein digestibility–corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) over other sources of plant protein make it a stand-out ingredient in a growing market segment. Another new clean-label development, NutraVie, Kerry’s nutritional lipids range, is designed for powdered beverages and can be customized to fit an individual consumer’s needs. Matthews said that while many traditional lipid powders feature “no-no” ingredients like silicon dioxide, Kerry has “managed to reduce, if not remove, a lot of those ingredients while still maintaining the functional, organoleptic, and shelf-life properties of the lipids.”
“There’s a lot of consumer confusion, and even confusion among manufacturers, about what clean label means,” Matthews told Nutritional Outlook. “The reality is that clean label means different things to different people.” She added that the data from the proprietary consumer research study can provide manufacturers a clarity when it comes to selecting ingredients and marketing those ingredients to the right consumers. The key, she said, is to help manufacturers identify who their target consumer is and what specific ingredient concerns that consumer might have.
“Kerry customers will have exclusive access to the full list of ‘no-no’ ingredients. We can help them drill down into who their consumer is, and then how best to make a product and to target a product for that particular consumer. Our wide portfolio of ingredients can help them achieve those targets,” Matthews said.