Clean Labels – Clearing Up Confusion to Create Craveable Products

Labels matter, especially for consumers looking out for their health and well-being.



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While regulations/requirements for classification might vary by region and locality, the definitions of each should be self-explanatory.

Yet, navigating what these claims mean can quickly become a headache for some consumers, particularly when the term “clean label” is added to the mix.

Though other claims may have legal definitions, a clean label, on the other hand, could mean very different things to different people.

One recent study found that 83% of shoppers claim to be already knowledgeable about “clean label” products or have at least heard of them.


Still, according to another survey, 75% of global consumers understood clean-label products to be natural, and another two-thirds thought they were free from synthetic ingredients.

Even then, when consumers were asked to define “natural”, 65% said it meant free from synthetic ingredients and non-GMO (genetically modified); 63% thought it meant no artificial ingredients and additives; and 57% saw it as environmentally friendly products.

This data shows that consumer understanding can have just as much variation as the definitions themselves.

What’s clear is that consumers are demanding more of the “good stuff”.

How that is defined largely depends on who your consumers are and what they are looking for.

Cleaning-up Understanding

One of Innova Market Insights Top 10 Trends for 2024 is “Taking the Spotlight”, which focuses on how consumers are actively searching for and evaluating particular ingredients when making purchase decisions.


It highlights the need for brands to call out the benefits and claims to help consumers make the right choices. Transparency is important for consumers; it promotes brand loyalty and trust in the food industry. This lies in education and honest labelling.

It’s probably not a coincidence that another one of the top trends for this year is “Minimising the Noise”, or in other words, cutting through the bombardment of information with clear, simple, and trustworthy communication.

This matters even more with the increase in plant-based, better-for-you, and functional offerings.

Whether the product is reducing unwanted ingredients, adding functional benefits, or working to improve sustainability claims, this needs to be clearly conveyed to your audience.

The same goes for offering products with cleaner labels.

Although 68% of consumers find recognising a product’s ingredients important, some seem to believe that’s easier said than done.

In fact, 54% of consumers already feel that nutrition labels could be simplified, and 51% admitted to being concerned that complex ingredient labelling is used to hide certain ingredients.

With consumer loyalty already strained due to inflationary pressures worldwide, effectively communicating one’s efforts can pay off in more ways than one.

Paying More for Less (of the bad stuff)

According to Ingredion’s Global Clean Label Manufacturer research, 30% of consumers would be willing to pay a premium of 20% for products reformulated around the naturalness of their ingredients.

However, this may quickly go from a market suggestion to a prerequisite for sustained success.

Despite the economic environment, 82% of global consumers said they would switch to brands with cleaner labels, with 70% willing to make a switch and pay a higher price to do so.

Companies that have already taken action on this growing sentiment appear to be reaping the rewards.

In 2022, 58% of global companies saw revenue increase as a result of their reformulations, with manufacturers in North America hitting an even more impressive 75%.

Numbers like that make the decision to use cleaner labels seem like a no-brainer. However, deciding how to go about that does require a great deal of thought.


Partners in the Process

What is considered clean, or at least cleaner, is determined by several consumer-based factors.

It might start by figuring out what drives them to buy this product in the first place.  Is it functional benefits? Convenient nutrition? Plant-based indulgence?

What are the target consumers’ expectations?  After all, while most people want cleaner labels, not every demographic is going to have the same standard.

But, perhaps most importantly, how will these reformulations impact price, functionality, and, above all, taste?

The difficulty in addressing each of these questions could be why nine out of ten global food and beverage manufacturers say that they have challenges reformulating with cleaner ingredients.

In addition to the taste and texture challenges already created by functional and plant-based ingredients, striving for a cleaner label can present its own obstacles.

The good news is clean labels and great taste don’t have to be mutually exclusive.Find out how Edlong’s international team of R&D professionals can help you navigate the clean label development landscape by finding the right flavours for your product and labeling needs.

About the Author: Emily Sheehan, Applications Manager, EMEA

Hi! I’m Emily Sheehan. I’m the Applications Manager, EMEA at Edlong, and my job is rooted in creating exciting new possibilities for our people and processes. It’s inspiring to reflect on how much Edlong has achieved and even more amazing to be involved in such thoughtful innovation. We enjoy pushing boundaries in food and flavour, and we welcome everyone in the food industry to join us. If you’re in need of expertise or inspiration, I’d love to collaborate and help you design flavour solutions that resonate with consumers!

Topics: Better For YouOrganicsPlant-Based
Resource Type: Article
Resource Region: EUUS


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