A Fork Full of Natural Ingredients: The Future of Clean Label Consumer Choices

Today’s consumers think differently about health, well-being, and nutrition. They are constantly re-examining traditional wisdom and the extensive research-based social media content and blogs alike to find the best kinds of food to help compound their health trajectory. Therefore, unsurprisingly, there has been a marked shift towards clean label products in consumer behaviours, especially in the latter part of the last decade.

In this blog, we will take a closer look at the growing interest in the clean-label trend, which is prevalent globally. This trend is also gaining rapid momentum in India and other Asian countries.

Shopper at a farmer's market selects organic carrots, embodying the clean label movement by choosing fresh and natural produce

Ditch the Hype, Choose Natural

When studies started linking serious illnesses and allergic responses to the meals people ate, researchers began to look more closely at manufacturing best practices and food production. This promoted a level of urgency among the average consumer to make careful choices driven by a growing awareness of health, a desire for transparency from food manufacturers, and environmental concerns.

As a result, the general focus on food purchases moved toward organic and natural products that are pesticide-free and chemical-free. Even overly processed foods were taking a back seat in this public inquiry of what supermarket cart choices would best enhance the quality of life and health.

Consumer reads a clean label on a packaged food product, detailing all-natural ingredients, in line with clean label guidelines.

Moving Toward Healthy Clean Label Ingredients

A product is said to have a clean label when it demonstrates full transparency in showcasing ingredients and keeps additives and preservatives to a bare minimum. Even highlighted texts on the label such as ‘no added sugar’, ‘organic’ and ‘no GMO’ tend to increase consumer confidence in the product.

Growing food allergies with debilitating outcomes, increased focus on environmental sustainability (ethically sourced ingredients), social responsibility towards fair labour practices, supporting local farmers, and prioritising animal welfare reasons for a growing emphasis on clean-labelled products. Colour is critical in food since it influences flavour perception and purchasing intent. Similarly, the colour and its intensity of the goods consumed influence perceptions of scent and flavour. According to a report by Chr Hansen in the Asia Pacific Food Industry magazine, there is a growing tendency to move to natural colours as well.

Because there are growing concerns on the nutritional and social front, consumers are looking for a quick and easy means to find brands and products that match their needs and values. Studies show that 1 in 4 consumers use clean label products as their primary route to making healthier choices.

Millennials and Generation Z will form the bulk of the consumer population in the next decade. Market research shows they are heavily influencing market trends and driving the demand for cleaner, more sustainable food options because their value-based preferences drive their food and beverage purchase decisions.

Infographic showing clean label food demand, with 81% consumers preferring plant-based options, 71% opting for sustainable sourcing, and 7.1% focusing on ethical standards

Global Clean Label Trends

Since 2019, over 200,000 clean-label products have been launched globally. The numbers grew significantly in concentration at the peak of the global pandemic. Close to 36% of these products have emerged from the United States, with a growing trend towards organic and natural foods versus their traditional processed staples. Europe is not far behind with its 28% share of clean-label product launches between 2019 and 2023. Australasia’s focus on additive-free and preservative-free has resulted in over 20,000 products being launched in just the past four years. Mordor Intelligence research indicates this market is expected to grow by 7.1% by 2027.

With so many clean products being introduced, what kind of products is the market leaning toward?  Since the diet change is gradually changing, many supplementary products are leading the charge. Sauces and seasonings are among the top product categories recently receiving a clean-label facelift. The pace of life has been picking up speed. So many consumers are looking for snacks that can easily transition into on-the-go meals, which has developed this product category into another clean-label product launch innovation segment. Ready meals and side dishes have become a massive boon to customers who have little time to cook after a long day’s work.

A smiling woman feeding healthy food to a child, highlighting the importance of clean eating habits from a young age

India Takes the Lead in Asian Clean Label Trends

A recent study on clean label products released in Asian countries such as India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea showed a steady trend toward going GMO-free. This signals a change in their traditional food habits. Despite having a more natural and organic approach to their meals, Asians are beginning to see the benefit of clean-label products to complement their busy lifestyles. When it comes to innovation, India is one of the top Asian countries leading the way in the number of product launches that carry the clean label. In 2023 alone, India launched over 5000 clean label products, constituting 13% of the global number. These statistics demonstrate a healthy trajectory soon, one that more enterprising food manufacturers can capitalise on.

The Symega Response

Interestingly, start-ups start-ups adopted this clean-label trend to differentiate themselves from more prominent brands and their mass-produced offerings. The mavericks of the food and beverage industry studied the market, discovered this growing customer need, and developed innovative products. Some of the biggest requirements that the market revealed were the need for preservative-free, natural ingredients and minimum preparation time.

Symega’s offerings are tailored to food creators who value clean labels. Our products are crafted for those who desire flavourful products derived from nature without sacrificing quality or aesthetics. This trend has driven our culinary innovations to provide customers with the best possible clean-label solutions. One of the primary concerns is that natural equals more expensive.

Symega’s natural flavours are not just authentic in their taste but also organic and affordable. Their applications can span a wide range of product categories, including baked goods such as cupcakes and cookies, and organic dairy products like fruit yoghurt and smoothies in a bottle. And let’s not leave out the delicious confectioneries!

We’re always looking for like-minded clean-label oriented culinary collaborators with whom we can innovate. If you’ve just liked what you read, contact us at marketing@symega.com to start the conversation.

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