Increasingly, consumers are being more proactive in evaluating the ingredients in the foods they purchase. As consumers gain knowledge from multiple sources – the media, the healthcare profession and government regulations, they are in search for products that are “natural” and/or have “clean labels.” According to 2013 research from The Hartman Group, Inc., clean food encompasses a wide variety of attributes that consumers are seeking: clean production (organic, fair trade), clean processing (organic, natural) and clean ingredient list (natural). 

The definition of clean label is in a continuous state of evolution as consumers become more aware of the ingredients in their foods and more exposed to a wide variety of opinions about those ingredients. The FDA has been the guiding force in ingredient regulations; however, some segments of consumers are questioning those regulations.  In other words, what is scientifically safe and federally approved may not be consumer approved.  An example of this dissention between the FDA and consumers is the recent media attention around ADA.  With the divergence of opinion comes the need to provide consumers with options that meet the regulatory criteria as well as the consumer criteria for “clean.” Corbion Caravan developed Pristine®, their clean label product line, four years ago to address these criteria.

With FDA guidance on acceptable ingredients, the focus on healthy eating used to be almost exclusively on the nutritional value of foods. Today, we are seeing more consideration given to the ingredients used as a part of what defines “better for you” options from a consumer perspective.  For instance, you can have a cleaner label product that is high in fat, sugar or sodium, or a very nutritionally balanced product containing approved ingredients that may not meet today’s definition of clean label.  Historically, the healthcare profession, government recommendations, and the media have driven healthy eating trends.  The consumer influence is growing in new ways.  That influence used to come primarily through an individual vote with the consumer’s wallet. Now that individual vote can quickly become mainstream through social media – whether the opinion is founded on perception or fact.

There are several rising bread trends that blend well with consumer’s desire for a healthier lifestyle. Trends that continue to gain momentum are all natural breads, organic breads and the continued growth of gluten-free breads. In addition, pretzel breads, Brioche and Ciabatta rolls increase presence in the marketplace speaks to consumers desire for authentic standards options, but in a healthy manner.

American consumers are making their voices heard and they want to be given an opportunity to make the choices that are best for them or their family. Food manufacturers and retailers need to be working overtime to develop and sell foods that meet this growing need.