CHICAGO — A new report from The NPD Group, “How Consumers Define Clean Eating,” reveals there are several key aspects of clean eating that are more prominent than others.

The Chicago-based global information company, which surveyed over 5,000 consumers to understand what clean eating means to them and how it impacts consumption and shopping behaviors, reports that 61 percent of primary grocery shoppers feel packaged foods are acceptable when eating clean, and 44 percent of shoppers say some processing is also acceptable.

Generally, clean eaters emphasize items that are absent in foods or beverages versus what they contain, according to the study. Of most importance to these consumers are foods that do not contain chemicals, preservatives or additives, and pesticides. These consumers appear to be adamant about their choices since 80 percent of clean eaters say this is their lifestyle as opposed to a diet or fad.

People who are core followers of clean eating currently represent only about 5 percent of primary grocery shoppers, skewing female and younger. While this is a small portion of the population, clean eating may have more staying power than typical diets since consumers view it as a lifestyle, according to the NPD Group.

Some consumers already practice clean eating but may not even know they are following some of the clean eating guidelines, the survey found. In addition, half of clean eaters have been following this lifestyle for over a year, which suggests that this is a lifestyle that can be sustained and therefore can grow in the coming decades.

“Clean eating from a product development standpoint may seem discouraging for consumer packaged goods manufacturers,” said Darren Seifer, NPD Group food and beverage industry analyst. “But the good news is packaged goods can still fit the bill with these consumers and attract them to the center of the store.”