A shift in consumer awareness of food products is changing the nature of products, according to April Tackett, science and technology translation at Wrigley, and has led to what is known as the Clean Label movement.
Speaking at the Mint Industry Research Council’s Annual Meeting January 26 in San Diego, Tackett said that today’s consumer reads labels, is aware of how different ingredients affect his or her health, and is avoiding foods that can cause harm to their bodies, the environment, people and animals.
“According to Packaged Facts, seventy percent of people are trying to eat healthier and looking at labels,” she said.
The Clean Label movement, which Food and Business News designated as its Trend of the Year in 2015, is as much about what is on a label, as what is not, according to Tackett. “We now are seeing statements such as free from artificial ingredients, additives, preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners and no GMOs,” she said.
Part of the trend involves simplifying labels, Tackett said, noting that Wrigley in 2015 launched Excel Naturally Sweetened Peppermint and Spearmint gums in Canada with just six ingredients, versus the fifteen that make up, for example, 5 Spearmint gum. In 2016, in the U.S. Wrigley launched Doublemint Perfectly Sweet gum sweetened only with sugar using natural mint flavor.
“Many products are promoting their simple formulations that vary from one to five ingredients,” she said.
“People are not just looking at what is in the product, they also are admiring what is not in the product,” she said.
Product certifications also are gaining in popularity, Tackett said, and now are available for fair trade prices, fair working conditions, environmental protections, animal-welfare protections, clean water and organic farming, among others.
“It is about caring for a cause and redefining values,” Tackett said. “Products tout that they value real people, real places.
Eating locally grown products also has gained in popularity. “Local is equated to fresh and seasonal,” she said. “That’s another movement: eat local, shop local, spend local.”
Many retail companies today have unacceptable-ingredients lists, she said. Whole Foods Market, for example, has approximately eighty-two ingredients on its unacceptable list for food, more than four hundred on their body-care unacceptable list and more than three hundred on their unacceptable list for cleaning products.
Other companies ban ingredients on their private labels, including Kroger, which bans more than one-hundred ingredients in its Simple Truth natural line.
“Consumers are looking for transparency,” Tackett said. “They want brands with positive intentions that translate to good practices and tell the whole story.”
Tackett traced the development of the Clean Label movement to a series of incidents that occurred around the world:
• In 2007, the FDA confirmed that a chemical linked to death in at least 8,000 cats and dogs may have been intentionally added to pet food to enhance its protein levels;
• Also in 2007, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall of toys that could potentially expose children to lead;
• In 2008, the FDA issued warnings about tainted infant formula from China;
• In 2013, horse meat was found in hamburger sold in European supermarket and fast food chains.
“It all boils down to one thing: Consumers have become deeply distrustful of their food,” Tackett said, adding, “People no longer care about how much you know until they know how much you care, and what you stand for.”
People are choosing products from companies where the homework is done for them on issues such as environmental health concerns associated with food production, farm-worker welfare, soil health, pesticide use, food safety, animal welfare, energy use, waste reduction and others, Tackett said.
Tackett closed her presentation by noting, “Everyone in this room has a role to play in shaping the future, and getting the fundamentals of trust is at the heart of the matter.
“The question I have for the group is: What will you do?”