January 2017: Clean Label & Kitchen Ingredients™
For several years now, the topic of 'clean label' has been growing in the food and beverage industry. In 2016 it took center stage, being called out at many trade show booths and commanding headlines and cover stories in countless industry publications. To stay on top of this trend / revolution, we created our Kitchen Ingredients™ platform - products that can label differently than 'flavor'. Some are extracts, others essences, and all fall under the FDA bucket called 'extractives'. With offerings in citrus, herbs, spices and other top flavor families, we needed to determine if these products were more consumer-friendly than typical flavors. And we needed to begin to understand if Natural Flavor itself was acceptable with consumers or not.
So in September 2016 we conducted a quantitative consumer study to give us directional guidance on consumer acceptability of Kitchen Ingredients™. We talked with 240 American consumers, Gen Pop ages 21-55+. Based on a list of ingredient types, we asked about awareness, acceptability and gave them a list of descriptors and emotional associations to connect with the ingredients. Here's what we found.
Consumers were well aware of Natural and Artificial Flavors, Extracts, Essential Oils, Sweeteners and Concentrates. Some had heard of Extractives and Essences, while most were ignorant of more industry-connected terms like distillates, tinctures, washed and folded ingredients and oleoresins. For our program, it was assuring to hear that there was some awareness of Extractives, given that this term is rarely used on ingredient labels. Digging deeper, we discovered that about half of consumers think Extract and Extractive are interchangeable terms and are comfortable with either being on a clean label product.
When we asked about acceptability of these ingredients, we noticed a pattern. If consumers were aware of the product, they typically were accepting of it with the exception of artificial ingredients. Again, we were encouraged by these results - 88% of consumers have a high acceptance of Natural Flavor and view it similarly with pantry ingredients like Extracts, Oils, Natural Sweeteners and Concentrates. Also, Extractives garnered some acceptance and could be a possibility for some products and brands.
For a final bit of confirming evidence, many consumers connect Natural Flavor with positive associations like Natural, Wholesome, Fresh and Good for me and my family. These descriptors had stronger connections with Natural Flavor than with any other ingredient tested, while attributes like Processed, Artificial and Chemical were checked by only 5-15% of consumers.
Time for Takeaways
- We still feel comfortable using Natural Flavors and Natural Sweeteners given that the vast majority of consumers are accepting of it on a packaged food and find it natural and good for them.
- Around half of consumers are also accepting of some version of extractives, so certainly a space to explore with specific products and brands.
- While this gives us great topline insight, we need to delve deeper into consumer language and feedback on this topic. More to come next month on this...