Clean-label preservatives aren’t just vital to food and drink formulations; they determine the future scalability and success of such products in the marketplace, one expert explains.
A major shift in consumer spending is taking place. Consumers across the globe are demanding more transparency from food and beverage manufacturers about what ingredients are in their products—whether they are healthy or not, natural or artificial. This urgency to switch to clean-label products has led food and beverage companies to undergo a paradigm shift in how they process, create, and deliver products to consumers.
This movement has been growing in the last 10 years to a point where 91% of consumers only want recognizable ingredients in their food or beverage products.1 Clean-label products are growing at a rate five times faster than traditional products on the market, and 73% of consumers say they would pay more for products with ingredients “they recognized and trusted.”2
The need for clean-label products is not only limited to consumers; retailers are now also joining the movement. Major retailers like Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s have put in place strict banned-ingredient lists for the products they carry in their stores.
With this increased awareness and scrutiny from consumers, brands are under a lot of pressure to keep up and to reformulate their products to meet clean-label demands.
Preservation is essential for almost all consumer products, but brands have been reliant on the same artificial ingredients for years. Switching from artificial preservatives can be a huge challenge for formulators.
By eliminating artificial preservatives, brands deliver the wholesome ingredient profile that reflects their values, wins consumers, and puts a company in a position to grow its business as far as consumer demand will take it. Unfortunately, by eliminating artificial preservatives from a product, they also drastically reduce the product’s ability to scale and limit its shelf life, increasing the possibility that a customer will have a less-than-premium experience. The stakes are particularly elevated in emerging markets like plant-based meat and dairy, where price points and expectations are high and where trial involves a leap of faith.
At the end of the day, food innovators face a seemingly unsolvable dilemma. The wholesome ingredient profile that helped their product get this far is also inhibiting it from going any further.
The answer to this challenge comes from new innovations that are disrupting the traditional preservation space. It comes in the form of natural, clean-label preservative ingredients that are able to replace these artificials while still maintaining food safety, shelf life, and the overall quality of the product. These natural preservatives are defined as being ingredients that are found in nature, either derived from plants, animals, or microorganisms.
There are a lot of considerations that a brand will need to make when making the switch, such as how effective the preservative is at preventing spoilage; how it is labeled; whether it alters taste, texture, or appearance; and, of course, cost. A good natural preservative ingredient is the perfect balance between all four of these components. These are high standards for ingredient manufacturers to deliver. Although there are a variety of natural preservative ingredients in the market, few are able to fulfill these requirements.
As COVID-19 changes the world, one thing that remains consistent is our need for a safe and continuous food supply. The pandemic has really accelerated the trend for food safety and cleaner products.
We are now transitioning into "Clean Label 2.0." For brands, keeping food safe is much more than just preventing spoilage; it involves protecting flavor, texture, and color, as well as maintaining the overall quality of a final product over its shelf life and adhering to the dietary needs (non-GMO, kosher, halal) and restrictions (vegan, gluten-free, keto-friendly) of their consumers. New ingredient manufacturers must strive to disrupt the status quo with new, innovative solutions that give consumers what they want and brands what they need now.
Natasha Dhayagude is CEO and co-founder of Chinova Bioworks, a food technology company founded in 2016 to develop natural, clean-label preservatives extracted from mushrooms for the food and beverage industry. Chinova is headquartered in New Brunswick, Canada, and 90% of Dhayagude’s team is made up of women practicing in STEM fields. Dhayagude was named Startup Canada’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017 and Startup Canada’s Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019 for her role in co-founding Chinova. Since then, she has raised $4.5 million in capital investment from major food-technology venture capitalists and has formed strategic partnerships with major multinational producers in the food-technology industry. Dhayagude earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry from the University of New Brunswick. For more on Chinova Bioworks, visit: https://www.chinovabioworks.com.