Clean labeling remains one of the most talked-about trends in the food and beverage market today, but its ubiquity hasn't made it simple or straightforward. Rather than undertaking a steady march toward including more nutritional information, companies have to take a nuanced approach to their labeling changes. The actual wants and needs of today's consumers, as revealed by various industry studies, will show whether businesses are on the right path.
Clean Labeling in Transition
With change a constant in the label design space, it's perhaps unsurprising that the best practices related to "clean" packaging are still in flux. New data about which nutrition facts excite customers most could significantly adjust food manufacturers' priorities. Food Dive recently explained that results from separate surveys add up to a more complete picture of what shoppers are looking for.
The Food Marketing Institute's Grocery Shopper Trends study last year found shoppers looking for unprocessed foods and avoiding certain ingredients. Research from the same organization this year gave a more nuanced picture of how best to capitalize on those customer interests. For instance, brands should stay positive in their messaging – while promoting the benefits of certain ingredients is a good choice, using over-the-top rhetoric to imply items without clean labels are "bad" is going too far.
Food Dive noted that following FMI's trends into the future could lead to a new generation of clean labels, equipped with smart-label technology that will let buyers scan items and determine those products' whole journey from ingredients to store. This level of transparency and honesty could set brands apart in the years ahead.
Bread Backing Off?
While the path toward clean labeling and ingredient disclosure is an ongoing theme in many food sectors, bread and baked goods may be an exception. Food Business News explained that when bread producers polled their core customers, people who buy fresh bread daily, nutrition and ingredients were lower-level priorities at best.
The shoppers who buy bread the most are far more interested in freshness. Price and value were mentioned in the study results, but having freshly baked bread was paramount. These shoppers are generally not looking at the ingredient lists of the loaves they take home, and when they do, they're more willing than general food buyers to accept bread with unfamiliar ingredients. This core customer research shows that despite the general trend, there are some markets where factors other than clean labeling move the needle more.