Clean label crucial for marketers, consumers

by Jeff Gelski
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 DuPont
Marketing, R&D, procurement and operations all face specific challenges.
 

KANSAS CITY – Going clean label is more than just switching ingredients. Companies may factor in such issues as consumer market targets, product safety, the differences between boat and air freight costs, and a potential need to increase warehouse space.

Such topics were covered in a July 13 webinar from DuPont Nutrition & Health called “Is Your Team Aligned? Breaking Down Silos Around Clean Label.” Baking & Snack, a Sosland Publishing Co. brand, hosted the webinar.

The four company divisions of brand management and marketing, research and development, procurement, and operations were covered. Stepping back to consider the different challenges each division faces in clean label conversions could help everyone in the company become better aligned and lead to a “better, faster, smarter result,” said Janelle Crawford, strategic marketing lead, bakery, for DuPont Nutrition & Health.

Marketing initiatives

Janelle Crawford, DuPont
Janelle Crawford, DuPont Nutrition & Health

The marketing team, since it identifies consumer trends, often initiates clean label product development, Crawford said.

“The idea is that acting on the right trends at the right time in the right way will help differentiate your brand and gain share from competition,” she said.

When examining surveys, marketing teams should know people have a tendency to overstate answers. When asked if they feed their family healthy food, they might say they do so all the time.
“We know that’s just not realistic,” Crawford said. “So the challenge becomes narrowing the gap between what people say and what they actually do.”

Understanding the target audience for a product is pivotal. DuPont Nutrition & Health developed six consumer categories through its research in 22 countries.

Of those six, “health helpers” who need help managing health issues (9 percent of the population), “weight strugglers” (12 percent) and “health wise” (28 percent) are most interested in nutrition. The “health wise” consumers are proactive and well-informed.

“These consumers have a higher propensity to sacrifice taste and eating pleasure for the benefit of their health,” Crawford said.

Companies may find it difficult to measure the success of a clean label product since many variables are involved, Crawford said. A new product might fail not because of clean label reformulation but because of other factors, like placement, pricing or promotion.

Research from DuPont Nutrition & Health shows concern about chemicals is growing. When asked what they thought were “very important” considerations when deciding what brands to purchase, 47 percent in 2015 said “contains no chemicals or artificial ingredients,” which was up from 40 percent in 2013. The percentages for “ingredient lists contain only recognizable ingredients” were 46 percent in 2015 and 43 percent in 2013. Taste is still king, though. The DuPont research found taste was a “very important consideration” for 82 percent in 2015, which compared with 84 percent in 2013.

R&D needs more time

Research and development often will require more time for transitions to clean label. Companies may have used the legacy ingredients that are being replaced for years, said Troy Boutte, PhD, group manager, bakery innovation for DuPont Nutrition & Health. In some cases it may take years to fully understand how a new ingredient, which is replacing a legacy ingredient, behaves.

“Almost any ingredient that gets developed will go through a lag phase,” he said.

Removing legacy ingredients may impact texture, flavor, appearance, shelf life or safety, he said. DATEM may be difficult to remove and lead to extra costs because of the need for more vital wheat gluten. Taking out bioengineered/GMO enzymes brings another problem.

“Here is where we are really going to see our shelf life take a big hit,” Dr. Boutte said.

Taking out legacy antimicrobials potentially may make a product unsafe.

“One of the most disturbing issues with clean label is product safety,” Dr. Boutte said. “Generally speaking in baking, we don’t have a major concern here, but certainly in other areas within the food industry this could be a much greater concern.”

Procurement by boat or air

Costs may rise when procuring clean label ingredients, especially if a single supplier offers an ingredient or an ingredient is under patent, Crawford said. An ingredient sourced halfway across the world could take six weeks to arrive by boat in America.

“You could air freight it, but then the costs skyrocket,” Crawford said.

Clean label products may come with a variety of claims, including organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and dairy-free. The more claims a company decides to achieve with a clean label product, the more difficult it may become for procurement and the company in general.

“You are continuously narrowing available options,” Crawford said.

Keep operations informed

Communication takes priority with operations.

“Operations is often remote,” Dr. Boutte said. “They’re sometimes not closely linked with the corporate headquarters. So therefore sometimes they get a little bit out of the loop with regard to new product development.”

Companies should bring operations into the new product development process early.

“Sometimes you’ll get very good input and save everybody a lot of headache,” Dr. Boutte said.

When going clean label, the operations team may need more warehouse space for new ingredients, such as non-GMO or non-allergen ingredients. Clean label ingredients may mean shorter production runs and more changeovers.

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