Clean label was a common theme among the latest ingredients on the show floor at this year’s Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting and exposition on June 25-28 in Las Vegas. Whether reducing sugars, packing products full of nutrients or providing improved functionality, label friendly was a priority in developing many of these solutions.

Consumers who read the ingredient list are still looking for ingredients they recognize and that they deem natural.

“From a labeling standpoint, customers are looking at the ingredients they want to use,” says Eric Shinsato, senior project leader for Ingredion, with regard to reducing sugar. “Sugar alcohols are off the table. Artificial sweeteners are off the table.”

And it’s not limited to sweeteners either. Emulsifiers, fats and other functional ingredients are under the microscope, and developers are looking for ways to offer cleaner alternatives that provide the same functionality in commercial production and in the final product. Taking those common ingredients off the table causes some processing challenges that must be addressed in these new ingredients.

“Consumers want transparency, but they want to enjoy the products, too,” says Kathy Sargent, market director, Bakery, at Corbion. “You can take out SSL and DATEM, but the product still has to go through commercial processing and maintain consistency and quality consumers expect.”

A common answer to the need for cleaning up labels found on the show floor was plant-based ingredients. Cargill and Beneo were showcasing chicory root fiber as a sugar reduction alternative. “Consumer data shows that consumers give positive feedback when they see chicory root fiber on the label,” says Andy Estal, technical manager, Beneo.

To discover consumers’ thoughts on the matter, Kemin Food Technologies partnered with Harris Poll to conduct research on consumer attitudes toward the ingredient list. What the study found was that consumers prefer shorter ingredients lists with fewer sodium-containing words.

“By understanding consumer trends, we’re able to shape our product portfolio to meet industry needs,” says Courtney Schwartz, senior marketing communication manager, Kemin.