Kerry Research Pinpoints Consumers’ Clean Label Definition


06 Jul 2017 --- “All-natural,” “non-GMO” and “no additives or preservatives” are the most common product attributes consumers associate with clean label, according to new research from taste and nutrition company Kerry. 

The study includes the results of a survey conducted among more than 2,600 respondents across the US, UK, France and Germany. Kerry reports that the readily available research results shared before and at IFT are reflective of US respondents. Additional study findings from the US and other regions will be released over the course of the next six to nine months. 
“Clean label has been a purchase driver for more than five years, yet confusion still abounds among consumers as well as manufacturers and brands looking to meet consumers’ needs,” says Renetta Cooper, business development director at Kerry. “Building on our legacy of market insights, we’re working to pinpoint consumers’ specific drivers as they relate to clean label and understand the commercial opportunities related to those drivers.” 

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst at IFT Cooper explains: “When conducting this research we found some interesting insights. The survey itself was around clean label and to better understand what consumers are looking for in terms of clean label produce. Out of 53 percent of consumers who read labels and who are aware of clean labels, 9 in ten of those consumers are conscious of the label and are actually willing to pay more for clean label products.”

“These findings are very significant for us at Kerry in understanding deeper what consumers are looking for. So, with 53 percent of people claiming to have a general idea of clean label and 35 percent feeling as though they have a pretty good understanding of what clean label means, we are seeing a specific understanding of what clean label is and what they are looking for,” she notes. “This tells us that now is the time to act.”

While more than half of consumers surveyed reported being familiar with the term “clean label,” just 38 percent indicated a strong understanding of its definition. Respondents connected product attributes ranging from “farm grown” to “sustainably produced” to “minimally processed” and “made with real ingredients” to “clean label,” demonstrating what a truly multidimensional opportunity it is for food manufacturers and brands. 

“Even though ‘natural’ is what people perceive as being clean label, non-GMO, organic, free-from artificial colors, flavors and preservatives is also what clean label can mean,” Cooper notes. 

“We didn’t ask any specific questions about what natural means, as natural is very undefined in the US, but I do think that you see layered claims,” she says. “You can see natural and an you also see free-from, so people are trying to qualify that. Consumers and customers are trying to find ways to understand what exactly they are getting.”

“As with organic,” adds Cooper, “It has not been fully defined by FDA or USDA.”

What other key findings came out of this research? “Increased interest in plant-based protein is something that stood out, the element of sustainability and the idea of health benefits, those two things are interesting,” she notes. “It is important if you have a plant-based protein products but only good if it tastes good, consumers still expect the same eating quality and flavor from meatless alternatives.”
“We are also continuing to see reduced sugar as a trend, consumers are understanding more and more in relation to nutritional added sugars and these types of regulations. For Kerry, we must ensure that we understand and implement the impact of which the label has on our consumers.” 

According to Cooper, something additional that came out of the research is that clean label needs to be substantiated with something. Bio-based content testing is something Kerry has been involved in for some time – driving and being audited so that the company is setting the groundwork to ensure that its products are credible and natural. 

You can view a video interview with Cooper here

by Elizabeth Green

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Kerry Global Technology & Innovation Centre


Kerry is responding to consumer demand for real ingredients with better, more authentic and nutritious taste experiences. With 40 years’ experience and 24,000 staff on six continents, Kerry has a renewed focus on Taste & Nutrition where the science of taste merges with the science of nutrition. They combine a deep understanding of taste with an in-depth knowledge of people, culture, life stage and daily nutritional needs. By partnering with Kerry, customers are taken on a journey to make food, beverage and pharma products that people enjoy and feel better about. Kerry calls this Leading to Better.

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