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Future of labelling is clear, says Ulrick & Short

28 August 2015

The traction gained by the clean label revolution across Europe, coupled with the emergence of clear label as a new trend, is likely to lead to further market segmentation in the food sector, says Adrian Short, director of leading British owned clean label ingredient specialist Ulrick & Short.

According to Innova Market Insights, clean label is no longer simply a trend but has become the new normal, driven by consumers, retailers, regulation and the industry itself, and influenced by online forums such as change.org, which push for reformulation of popular products to clean up and shorten ingredient lists.

Adrian Short explained: “In the late 20th Century we saw a significant expansion in the organic food sector and that was one of the catalysts for the recent change in attitude by consumers, who are becoming much more aware of what they’re eating and actively seeking out what are perceived as healthier options. Clean labelling supports the consumer’s ability to make those choices in-store quickly and easily, and clear label is simply the next logical step in the evolution of the sector.

“Clear label is not just about the ingredients, it’s also about the packaging and any claims made to be free from, organic or even vegan or vegetarian. Some foodstuffs, such as dairy, are naturally gluten free but manufacturers are now including the claim clearly on the packaging in order to add value for the consumer who may be selecting on the basis of health or lifestyle – or both.”

Across Europe manufacturers are reformulating to position their products credibly on the clean label platform, with bakery, sauce and seasonings, dairy and ready meals demonstrating the greatest NPD (new product development) activity. Consumers are still seeking out their favourite brands or lines – but constructed more simply and packaged in a way that represents this. Clean and/or clear label activity enables the shopper to make an informed choice, avoiding additive-heavy products if they so wish.

Consumers now pay much more attention to a product’s nutritional profile to meet the need for a specific dietary requirement such as high protein, low GI, low fat or free from. In the on-shelf melee the claims of brands must be quickly identifiable or they may well be overlooked. Of course, big brands promote these messages through marketing as well, with one global frozen food manufacturer, for example, positioning its products via social media, TV and other advertising as being as natural as fresh produce.
 
Adrian Short added: “Because the category commands a premium, clean label products are not for every consumer. There is still growing demand for cheaper foods, targeting consumers who pay less attention to the ingredient list and health claims than to the price ticket. As clear label grows as a category in its own right it may well lead to greater fragmentation of the sector and polarisation of clean/clear label and cheaper, often own brand lines designed for smaller budgets.

“At Ulrick & Short we’re really looking forward to seeing where clear label leads. Already we’ve noticed the emergence of products that claim to enhance beauty ‘from within’, for example collagen based beauty drinks. Next we’re expecting to see the growth in popularity of ‘mood foods’ to directly influence a person’s demeanour. Worldwide, more than one in ten new product launches in 2014 claimed to be either organic or non-GM, and we are confident that the number of such claims will only continue to increase and diversify. Clear label is here to stay.”


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