- Sales of conventional products are declining, while those advertising themselves as being simple, clean, sustainable and free of artificial ingredients are on the rise, according to recent Nielsen analysis.
- This is a "mainstream movement," Nielsen noted, citing that 93% of U.S. households have purchased a clean label product at grocery stores, 70% at a mass merchandiser/supercenter and 31% at club stores. Half of all shopping trips now include the purchase of a clean label product, the company added.
- Millennials and Generation X consumers are more likely to look for and buy products labeled organic or free from GMOs and added hormones. Members of the so-called Greatest Generation, on the other hand, don't place as much importance on these claims.
Consumers are becoming increasingly infatuated with the concept of clean label products. As a result, food and beverage manufacturers are scrambling to phase out artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors, as well as ingredients such as high-fructose corn syrup, gluten and trans fats.
Kraft Heinz reformulated the recipes for its Oscar Mayer hot dogs to clean up the products. It now has a label showcasing the word ‘no’ three times, with smaller text explaining that it doesn't have added nitrates or nitrites, artificial preservatives or by-products. Campbell Soup, which announced in 2015 it will remove artificial colors and flavors from nearly all of its North American products by the end of its fiscal 2018, has introduced new items with simple ingredients to appeal to consumers seeking clean labels. Hershey, General Mills and many other food manufacturers are making similar changes.
The reason: 75% of U.S. consumers claim to read the ingredient labels of food products, while 91% contend those with ingredients they recognize are healthier, Innova research estimates.
Clearly the food industry has economic incentive to move in the clean label direction, since survey results show a majority of consumers are willing to pay 10% more on a food or drink product containing known, trusted ingredients. Eighteen percent of consumers said they would pay a premium of 75% or more for favored ingredients.
Consumers who recognize the ingredients on a product say it's an important factor in their purchasing choice, as is being able to see nutritional information on food packages. Price remains the number-one deciding factor, however.
And while the the general consumer population prefers clean labeling on food and beverage products, there is still variation in preferences based on the age, income and personal tastes of the individual consumer.
Nielsen has previously analyzed the relative market share of clean labels across different food and beverage products. Categories where clean label outperforms conventional products include beans (51% vs. 49%), baking staples (57% vs. 43%), cooking wine and vinegar (81% vs. 19%), sugar and sweeteners (83% vs. 17%) and milk and dairy alternatives (90% vs. 10%), according to Food Business News.
It's tempting to envision the quintessential clean label fan as a younger consumer who, at least occasionally, cooks and/or bakes at home, enjoys dairy products and has a sweet tooth. But, like most things, the Nielsen survey reveals the complexity in consumer demographics the food industry should consider as it focuses on clarity in labeling and product transparency.