Baby boomers lead clean label movement

by Keith Nunes
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A lack of trust in manufacturers is prompting consumers to seek clean label products featuring third-party claims.
LAS VEGAS — Millennials may get the lion's share of the headlines, but baby boomers are leading the clean label trend. The demographic’s purchasing power, combined with an interest in longevity, was cited by speakers during a Sept. 26 education session about clean label during the SupplySide West trade show taking place this week in Las Vegas.

Daniel Lohman
Daniel Lohman, organic and consumer packaged goods industry strategic adviser for Category Management Solutions

“Not to discount millennials, but it is the baby boomers driving the key attributing across categories,” said Daniel Lohman, organic and consumer packaged goods industry strategic adviser for Category Management Solutions. “They are the ones driving the growth in the key categories.”

During his presentation, Lohman noted that four out of 10 consumers suffer from some sort of an ailment, and those consumers are looking to food as a form of medicine.

“The drive toward organic, clean label is driven by the boomer consumer,” he said.

Alan Rownan, ethical labels analyst for Euromonitor International, said the clean label trend is not new and is born out of consumer fears regarding what may be in their food.

Alan Rownan, ethical labels analyst for Euromonitor International

“Clean label is a mosaic of differing narratives,” he said. “It goes back to the 1960s with MSG, to the ‘70s with e-numbers in Europe, and then you had melamine in milk in China,” he said. “It all just feeds into this fear of what people are putting into their bodies.”

A lack of trust in food manufacturers was a theme that ran throughout the session. Rownan noted that consumers like to see claims on packaging that are supported by a third party.

“We want somebody else who does not have a horse in the race to confirm a claim,” he said. “It’s not based on one reason. It’s based on a general, global lack of trust.”

By 2020, Rownan said the sales of clean label products in the US, United Kingdom, China and Germany combined will total approximately $112 billion in sales. Specific product categories he described as “high impact” include dairy, sweet and savory snacks, juice, ready meals, sauces, dressings and condiments, and baked goods.

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