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Label Trends: Get in ‘The Clear’

May 24, 2016

by Lisa Reed, BSC

the latest trend in labels for food products is to be as clear as possible so that consumers feel well-informed.

The latest trend in labels for food products is to be as clear as possible so that consumers feel well-informed

Are these vegetables local? Is this coffee fair-trade? How was my burger made? More than ever, consumers are craving transparency—they want to make sure that the food they’re eating is not only healthy, but also sourced, prepared, and distributed in an ethical manner. While many companies have begun answering questions on social media and posting images and videos of their supply-chain, a recent study found that only 31% of consumers felt the food industry is transparent and 65% of consumers want to know more.1 A lack of transparency can have serious consequences. After all, it only takes one post, one documentary, or one picture for consumers to boycott a food product, or even an entire food industry.

As the Food Science Intern at Food Starter, many of the entrepreneurs that I consult with aim to have a product with a “clean label”—a term used to describe a simple ingredient list that contains only familiar and minimally processed ingredients.  However, a major drawback of most labels is that they don’t necessarily provide the consumer with much insight. For example, even a clean label doesn’t tell you how the product was made or where your ingredients were sourced.

To combat this problem, businesses can implement a “clear label,” which has information on how the product was produced. Examples can include sustainability certifications, fair-trade certification, and additional information about the ingredients. This idea of a clear label was discussed at the Puratos’ Taste Tomorrow event held on May 4th, 2016 where nearly 100 delegates from the baking industry met at the Old Mill Hotel in Toronto. The day included several thought-provoking sessions on how consumers are shaping the food industry and how business’s can react to the ever changing consumer rules.

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During an insightful interview with Liesbet Vandepoel, Director of Marketing with Puratos Canada, she informed me that clear labels are important in developing rapport with consumers. Additionally, she discussed how social media usage now means that more opinions are being shared at a faster rate, thus increasing the need for transparency to avoid misconception, contradictions, or information being lost in translation.

Given that consumers have never been more interested in behind-the-scenes food information, coupled with the fact that social media makes it so easy to contact businesses directly, I encourage entrepreneurs to consider using clear labels. Having detailed ingredient and production information on food labels and in advertising campaigns allows a business to keep up with the consumers’ need for transparency, as well as to develop a great consumer rapport right off the bat. Just remember: keep calm and label on.

1Sources: Sullivan Higdon & Sink FoodThink. (2016)