The Natural Universe The evolution of natural & clean label, and the impact on our world.

January 2017: Clean Label & Kitchen Ingredients™

Author's Corner

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...

Industry Facts

Sometimes I find myself wondering - do consumers really care about the ingredients in their food? Is this just something our industry and the media have overblown, or are people really losing sleep over this stuff? Well, according to a November 2016 Mintel report, majority of American consumers say the following:

Shorter ingredient statements and less 'chemical-sounding' ingredients = healthier food. And consumers aren't just looking at the ingredient statement - 59% of US grocery shoppers say they look for natural claims on the front of pack, 21% say they seek organic claims and 39% say they at least occasionally purchase GMO-free foods (per the same Mintel study).

Here's the difficulty with asking consumers directly about clean label issues - oftentimes their actions don't match their words. When Mintel asked the same consumers about their purchase intent of products, some with and some without on-pack 'clean and simple' label claims, their PI is nearly identical. Yet another watch-out on this type of research. That doesn't mean clean label isn't important, but it is not actively changing consumer behavior in a big way yet.

Social Media Corner

With all this talk about clean labels and ingredients and impact on consumer behavior, we decided to bring the consumer voice directly into the conversation. Using a new smart phone video tool, we asked consumers: "what do you look for when purchasing a product?" We screened for people who said they read labels most/all of the time. The below video is a sampling of what they told us. You'll hear comments about flavor, taste, brand, price, nutritionals. What you won't hear is comments about ingredients, except for when consumers mistakenly call out 'ingredients' like fiber and protein. Further guidance that clean label is growing in importance but still well behind taste, price, brand and nutrition.

Coming February 2017

Now that we have a baseline understanding of our ingredients and their connection with clean label to consumers, we need to delve deeper into what 'clean label' means. How do consumers talk about clean label and product ingredients? What verbiage do they use, positive and negative? So we took to social media to take the words from their mouths... er, thumbs. Next month we'll share our findings for how consumers describe products and their labels. The ongoing evolution of Natural and Clean Label continues.

Until next time...

If you missed December's edition of The Natural Universe , you can read it here.

About Givaudan

Enjoy the essence of life, with flavours and fragrances that delight

Givaudan captures the essence of the moment, bringing you memorable flavours and fragrances to be enjoyed throughout the day. We maintain our leadership position – approximately 25% of our industry’s global market share – by challenging ourselves daily, inspiring our partnerships across the globe and serving our customers with heart and soul.

Touching people’s lives ten times per day - Together with our customers in the food, beverage, consumer goods and fragrance industries, we create products that delight consumers the world over. From your favourite drink to your daily meal, from prestige perfumes to laundry care, Givaudan is there, inviting you to engage your senses, every day, enjoying moments of delight.

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Your Naturals Universe team is Kim Duncan (Consumer Insights Manager), John Rathje (Category Manager for Foods), and Kasey Reed-Long (Product Manager)
Created By
John Rathje

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