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What is Clean Label?


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Clean Labelling satisfies consumers' desire for healthy foods that are naturally prepared.
It is a sustainable counter-trend to the almost limitless supply of industrially manufactured food: Today, anyone who stands in front of the supermarket shelves cannot think of anything that is missing. From drinks to exotic vegetables, fish, sausages and meats in all variations, to countless sorts of spices and blends, dairy products, frozen foods, bread, sodas, juices and wine - the offer is almost inexhaustible.

At the same time, consumers are more concerned than ever before with their personal health and well-being. More and more people are urged to question what they have on their plate and what eventually ends up in their bodies. As a result, an increasing number of consumers favour the natural alternative, in the oversupply of foods

Clean Eating: 'Clean Food' as a new lifestyle

Due to an increasing call for 'clean eating', the US nutrition expert Tosca Reno developed the Clean Eating Concept. As explained in her worldwide bestseller: Your meals should consist of a maximum of five fresh ingredients and should not involve more than five processing steps. They should be cooked with cold-pressed oils, seasoned with plenty of herbs and pepper, but little salt.

Clean Eating means an increase in a meatless diet – aiming to protect the environment – while it is soy that is becoming notorious. Reno is convinced that 80% of well-being rests in the diet. 'You are what you eat' takes on a new meaning within the Clean Eating Concept.

Clean Eating

  • Meals should have a maximum of five ingredients

  • They should be prepared in a maximum of five processing steps

  • Cooking with cold-pressed oils, fresh herbs, pepper, and very little salt

  • As much as 80% of well-being comes from the nutrition

This 'new simplicity” in gastronomy also has a parallel in the Clean Eating trend. Many new and successful gastronomy concepts are mono-concepts, where the menu in one restaurant is dominated above all by a single product with several variations. In this way, they can provide the highest quality. In her 'Food Report 2018', Hanni Rützler marks vegetables and all their variants as the new stars in the kitchen. Top chefs tend to use fewer ingredients in their preparation.

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Clean Label: The answer to the desire for clean food

What Clean Eating means in a home kitchen is clean labelling in the broadest sense in the industry. Clean Labelling describes food products with known and simple ingredients that are easy to recognize, understand and pronounce. However, despite the growing use of the term "clean label" in the fast moving consumer goods area, there is no universally accepted definition of what constitutes a clean label product.

However, all foods with so-called clean labels share the following characteristics: A Clean Label product promises that the product contains one or more ingredients that are as unprocessed and natural as possible.

Clean Label: Describes those foods (ingredient lists) that contain the most natural and unprocessed ingredients possible.

Good replacement: Less is more

Many Clean Label products use less processed and / or synthetically produced fabrics that give the consumer a better feeling and are considered as a healthier alternative

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Common substitutes are for example, the following:

  • Colouring vegetable foodstuffs

    With Clean Labelling, artificial dyes can be substituted by colouring plant extracts and / or colouring juice concentrates.

  • Yeast extract

Yeast extract is of natural origin and is used in some Clean Label Products instead of flavour enhancers.

  • Preservatives

    For example, preservatives in juices are mainly replaced by technical procedures, which make the addition of artificial preservatives unnecessary.


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Clean Labelling as an opportunity

Clean Labelling can be used by manufacturers to inform consumers about or advertise a product because it hits the nerve of the time: 'The interest in safe food and concerns about its origin have become a constant theme in our food culture,' Hanni Rützler writes in her Food Report 2019. Anxious consumers would demand security and transparency in terms of origin, processing, ingredients, distribution and sales.

This makes Clean Labelling an enormous opportunity for product marketing. It is assumed, though that, certain criteria are met.

Their implementation is not always easy for the manufacturers: This is because for many ingredients used it is not easy to find an adequate Clean Labelling suitable alternative. 

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Andreas Lausberg

Andreas LausbergAuthor

Director of NPD, QM/QA & Flavours


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