By CHRISTIAN PHILIPPSEN
Today’s Asian consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about their diet, as they look to find out more about what is in their food, and how it is produced. That is the viewpoint supported by a growing body of evidence, which suggests that clean label is a trend that manufacturers should be paying attention to.
In fact, a 2019 report showed that the global clean label ingredients market is projected to reach US$72.7 billion by the end of 2029. This trend is even expected to grow more exponentially in Asia, due to the region’s economic growth in the past couple of years1.
Although there is currently no legal or regulatory definition for clean label, from a consumer’s perspective, it most commonly implies transparency around product ingredients and their origins. Hence, products that include easy-to-understand and recognisable ingredients, use sustainably sourced ingredients are considered clean label.
Overall, it is generally agreed that clean label may be used to describe foods that are minimally processed, devoid of artificial flavours, artificial colours and synthetic additives, and absent of any unexpected allergens2.
The growth of new product launches with transparent label claims shows that the food industry is responding to consumer demand. Clean label is thus no longer just a trend, but a new standard for the food industry, as well as a must for manufacturers looking to stay ahead in the competitive industry. Manufacturers who can highlight the naturalness and origins of their products will be at a significant advantage.
However, some foods are harder to “clean up” than others, as they have to undergo demanding processing conditions. These include soups and sauces, dressings, baby food jars, dairy desserts, bakery fillings and fruit preparations. But it is possible with the right choice of functional ingredients.
For example, Beneo’s instant functional native rice starch, Remypure S52 P, qualifies for natural and clean label status worldwide. For the first time, it allows food manufacturers to produce clean label food preparations such as cold processed sauces, dressings, dairy desserts and bakery fillings with an instant functional native rice starch. The new ingredient delivers a soft and creamy textures and product stability, even under harsh processing conditions such as shear and acid.
The company utilises a new thermal production process which is entirely natural, enabling this functional native rice starch to achieve performance levels comparable to chemically modified food starches, without using any chemicals.
However, as consumers continue to avoid products that contain artificial ingredients3, transparent and simple labels are on the rise worldwide. Research has shown that one in four food and beverage launches carry a clean label claim. This increases to one in three for sauces and seasonings. Looking ahead, applications such as baby foods and kids’ nutrition – where transparency and food safety are paramount – will continue to be a major area of focus for organic and clean label ingredients4.
Dairy is another key for clean label, since natural ingredients are considered a must. Confectionery and bakery are also applications with a growing importance placed on using natural colourings and flavours, along with savoury applications such as sauces and ready-to-eat meals, where consumers want and expect to see ingredients they can find in their kitchen cupboard.
The clean label trend is clearly burgeoning in Asia, creating immense opportunity but bringing great challenge along with it. Consumers still wait to be convinced that products with fewer additives will appeal to senses in terms of taste, visual, and textural appeal. But, if manufacturers can surpass technical issues to create cleaner label foods with the same tastes and textures, the market potential will be massive.
Christian Philippsen is managing director for Beneo Asia-Pacific.
1. Future Market Insights (2019) 2019 Analysis and Review Clean Label Ingredients Market by Application – Beverages, Cereals & Snacks, Dairy & Frozen Dessert, Bakery and Prepared & Processed Food for 2019 – 2029 https://www.futuremarketinsights.com/reports/clean-label-ingredients-market
2. Global Food Forums (2020) 2020 Clean Label Conference Magazine https://cleanlabel.globalfoodforums.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2020/11/2020-Clean-Label-Post-Conference-Magazine-Linked.pdf
3. Source: BENEO consumer research clean label 2018
4. Source: Mintel GNPD, Jan 2015- Sept 2020. Clean label launches are launches with All Natural Product, GMO-Free, No additives/preservatives or Organic claims on the packaging