The point of clean labeling, as a movement, is to present a simple view of products' ingredients and contents. Food producers hope this straightforward list of recognizable names will reassure customers they are getting foods that fit in with simple dietary preferences. Extensive processing and artificial ingredients have come into some disrepute in recent years, and clean labeling is a promise to present products free of excess.
Fitting in with this "less is more" ethos, many clean labels are visually stark and simple. There are some concerns around this style of disclosure, however. When companies radically scale down their branding and ingredient lists, customers sometimes feel they're being tricked. This is the fine line brands walk: While attempting to create an appealing look, they may find themselves facing legal pushback from consumers.
Clean Labels Draw Lawsuit
One recent case of customer dissatisfaction described by Project Nosh involved legal action against That's It, a brand that labels its nutrition bars with the names of the fruit varieties involved, rather than the ingredients derived from the produce. The plaintiff in the case stated that there is no way to create a fruit-derived bar without binding agents or processed versions of fruit. The company's website claims it has a proprietary process for turning fruit into finished products.
Perhaps reflecting the appeal and importance of the clean labeling movement, a follow-up story from Project Nosh explained That's It has increased its commitment to simple ingredient listings in the wake of the case, rather than changing its strategy. Reps from the brand explained their redesign was in progress before the lawsuit, and that they didn't change anything about the new approach due to the legal situation.
Not Indulgent Enough?
While it's easy to see the conflicting ideologies that lead to some clean labeling lawsuits, others are stranger in their purpose. Food Navigator recently pointed out a case wherein Halo Top, a "light" brand that makes healthy ice cream was sued for making itself seem like an indulgent treat, whereas it is actually a health-conscious alternative. Furthermore, the suit challenges its status as ice cream, and takes it to task for using the words "all natural" and "no artificial sweeteners" when it contains sweetening agent erythritol.
The lawyers behind the case are the same ones handing the That's It suit. Legal experts commenting on the case told Food Navigator it seems unlikely to make an impact on Halo Top.