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Clean Label in beverage development

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Clean Label is a trend that is here to stay: The increasing awareness of the regional nature and origin of products as well as the desire for natural and near-natural ingredients in food and beverages, which ideally carry at least a "Free from" label, make Clean Labels a desirable choice in the development of beverages and beverage compounds.

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The American nutrition expert and best-selling author Tosca Reno has popularised Clean Eating on a broad scale: "Clean eaters" eat only dishes with "clean food" that consist of a maximum of five ingredients and that are natural, fairly produced, organic, regional and as unprocessed and untreated as possible. The talk is of food that is consumed "authentically" - i.e. as far as possible the way it grows in nature. This development does not stop at beverages - and thus at beverage compounds.

Clean Label is the food and beverage industry's answer to Clean Eating. This movement describes foods and beverages with familiar and simple ingredients that are easy to recognise, to understand and to pronounce. In order to be able to market Clean Label beverages, it is necessary to start with the production of the beverage compounds.

These follow new standards for Clean Label products, whereby: the simpler and more natural the better! Despite the increasing use of the term "Clean Label", however, there is no generally valid definition of what constitutes a Clean Label product in the “Fast Moving Consumer Goods” sector. However, what all Clean Label products and thus also the beverage compounds for Clean Label drinks have in common is: they promise that the products or the ingredients used for them are as natural and unprocessed as possible. However, there is indeed a legal EU regulation for this kind of labelling, which you can read about in this article.

Clean Label: A red-hot factor in buying decisions

Consumers expect Clean Label products to have short ingredient lists, well-known, natural and, if possible, local ingredients, and Clean Label factors are now remarkably relevant to their buying decision: According to FMCG Gurus, 73 percent of consumers believe that natural products are better for them. 61 per cent reported in 2020 that they prefer fewer ingredients in a food product. In addition, 56 per cent of consumers worldwide say they would pay more attention to natural claims, and 36 percent of global consumers now pay more attention in products to the quality of ingredients used. In addition, 63 percent of consumers are willing to search product labels for ingredients they do not know about.

Source: FMCG Gurus 2020

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How transparency becomes more important at all levels

With all these needs and demands on a product, transparency is a crucial criterion: for example, 33 per cent of global consumers say they do not trust the claims made by food brands and 62 per cent believe that brands would try to disguise ingredients within nutrition labelling. In addition, 35 per cent believe that brands are not transparent when it comes to communicating practices and policies.

Source: FMC Gurus

The food and beverage industry can therefore help build consumer confidence in food and beverages by providing more transparency on ingredients.

From sweeteners to colourants and preservatives: what Clean Label is mostly "clean" of

However, it is often necessary to replace commonly used ingredients in Clean Label products - for example sweeteners or various colourants. Artificial colourants in Clean Label products, for example, can be replaced with colouring plant extracts and/or juice concentrates. Today, natural stimulant drinks are also expected to achieve the desired effects without artificial additives.

Preservatives, for example, can be replaced by technological processes that allow drinks and food to have a longer shelf life.

In the beverage sector, sweetening alternatives that reduce sugar and at the same time are compatible with consumers' interest in naturalness and Clean Labelling are becoming increasingly attractive. For example, plant-based sweeteners such as steviol glycosides derived from stevia are often used as an alternative to artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. However, steviol glycosides are also sweeteners that belong to the category of additives and must be labelled as such in the list of ingredients. Classic sweeteners may be cheaper, but they are more difficult to reconcile with the Clean Label idea. This example shows that the beverage development of Clean Label products in the price-sensitive sector is quite challenging, as purely natural ingredients are often more expensive and can therefore quickly exceed the set cost framework.

Beverages whose formula are composed of largely natural ingredients contain claims such as "without sweeteners", "without colourants and preservatives" or "free from additives".

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Consumers want to be in control of what they buy

With the increasing importance of Clean Label and sustainability, transparency will also become more important. A survey by Euromonitor International shows that a greater proportion of consumers prefer flexibility in their diet rather than strict commitments to something. This suggests that many of them prefer to have more control over their consumption rather than consuming defined products within certain parameters and concepts.
As a result, companies need to place increasing emphasis on the ingredients and clarity of their products' nutritional content, positioning in the context of relevant consumer values, and a coherent brand image in terms of sustainability, food safety and supply chain cleanliness. This extends transparency from the mere product to the entire company.

Source: Passport Clean Label: From Health to Transparency

CONCLUSION:

The unabated demand for organic and regional products is complemented by simple, natural, sustainably produced and thus "clean" food and is increasing significantly. According to FMCG Gurus, 73 percent of consumers believe that natural products are better for them. 61 percent reported in 2020 that they prefer fewer ingredients in a food product. In addition, 56 percent of consumers worldwide say they would pay more attention to natural claims, and 36 per cent of global consumers now pay more attention in products to the quality of ingredients used. In addition, 63 percent of consumers are willing to search product labels for ingredients they do not know about. Clean Label in food and beverages is more than a trend: transparency, naturalness and simplicity of the ingredients used is Clean Label - a trend that is here to stay.

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Julia Gugler

Julia GuglerAuthor

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