The twenty-first century has seen a profound shift in the way North Americans approach food. While this is not, in and of itself, particularly new — evidence suggests that food and eating habits have seen significant and steady change worldwide for centuries — the direction of this shift is noteworthy: where the twentieth century saw a massive move to industrialize food production, the twenty-first has seen a backlash against mass marketing approaches to food and agriculture.
This has been seen in myriad ways, from the rise of the local food movement to renewed interest in grass-fed beef, but one of the most recent areas of consumer rebellion has been food labels.
Clean Food Labels: Transparency is Not Enough
Ingredient labels have been mandatory for decades, but as advancements in food science have led to more complex ingredients being included in everyday foods, it has become increasingly difficult for consumers to truly understand these labels. While these labels are technically transparent, many consumers have started lobbying food producers to include fewer additives.
In addition to expressing skepticism about a large number of complex and often mysterious additives that have cropped up in even seemingly simple staples like bread, many consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about large levels of sugar, sodium, trans-fats and gluten.
This has led to a growing awareness among food producers that, in order to appeal to contemporary consumers, they need to not only reduce their reliance on additives, and, wherever possible, but also replace unhealthy fats, flavouring, and colouring agents with more natural ones.
The Challenge of Clean Labels
This means that food companies need to be focused not only on designing products that are affordable, tasty, and healthy, but which also rely on simpler or more natural ingredients.
For example, when looking for a bakery ingredients supplier you can count on to deliver high-quality product that will also appeal to consumers who want to eat healthily, you need to be cognizant both of the number of unnatural additives they are using, and the overall level of unhealthy ingredients like sugar, sodium, and trans-fats.
Given that consumers also want food that will stay fresh for a long time, be environmentally friendly, and have a good mouthfeel, this can be a bit of a challenge. This is why it is important when looking for providers you can source food products from, to work with companies that understand the importance of clean labels and can work with you to meet your own needs while also appealing to the widest possible range of customers.
The passion for clean labels shows no signs of slowing down, and it is clear that if large food producers are not able to accommodate consumer needs in this area, they will be boxed out of significant segments of the market.
Finding better ways to design products and source ingredients is essential for food producers of all sizes who want to maintain long-term viability and win the loyalty of a new generation of customers.