What's Next After Clean Label?

It wasn’t that long ago that outside of letter writing, a phone call was the dominant way to communicate with distant relatives.  Today, this method of communication has been joined by a myriad of other choices.  It’s not that phone calls are irrelevant, it’s just that keeping in touch can now be achieved in many different ways.

This same evolution is occurring with the factors that consumers draw upon to determine their purchasing decisions.  While in the past it was primarily about taste, price and convenience, it is no longer that simple.  Today, consumers take into account multiple data points when deciding where to spend their dollars. One of the most important of these variables is health and wellness. However the way this is being defined is also changing and evolving. 

While the nutritional value remains an important consideration, it’s now joined by a myriad of other considerations.  For packaged foods, this has most recently been a focus on the nature of the ingredient list. In fact the ingredients list is now being scrutinized even more so than the nutrition information.  Research by Nielsen found while 66% of consumers evaluate the nutrition information on a product, 75% assess the ingredient list. Nutrients have now been pipped at the post by ingredients - much like texting has overtaken phone calls as a way of staying in touch.

However these changes gradually evolve and are not necessarily new. For those looking to be future ready, it’s timely to consider what comes next?

Last week I caught up with Justin Nel from Mintel to find out. Mintel will be well known to many for their Global New Products Database, along with their consumer insights and global trend tracking services.  Based on what they are seeing now, Justin’s viewpoint is that ‘safety’ is the next important area that food businesses must address to reassure consumers their products are 'good for them'.   

In an era of fake news, food fraud and product tampering, according to Mintel’s research, 29% of Australian consumers don’t trust the food and drink industry to provide food that is safe for consumption.  After the events of this week around tampering of fresh strawberries, and recent recalls of sprouts, salad kits and chocolate products, it's likely this issue has been further exacerbated.  

We clearly have a skeptical consumer base that needs convincing before purchasing and Justin’s advice is to get on the front foot.  Full disclosure and complete transparency are needed now more than ever.

“Consumers really want to know everything about the food they are buying. It’s not just what’s in it but how the product was made and where the ingredients have been sourced. They want to know everything they can about the product’s life cycle - from the start to the finish when it appears on the shelf at the retailer.  We refer to this trend as providing full disclosure”.   

According to Justin, social media is a great way to be at the forefront with this. Rather than waiting for a consumer to ask, use social media platforms to push the relevant information out.

As a result of this evolution in consumer values, there’s been a shift in the advice Mintel are providing to their clients . Previously the priority was to highlight provenance and legacy and to build a consumer connection that way. Just like nutrients and ingredients, while that is still important, there’s a swing now toward reassurance about a product’s safety.

And the way 'safety' is being defined is not simply an absence of contaminants.  It's about transparency, labeling, the nature and degree of processing, the ingredients and clarity around the connection between farm and fork.

Thinking full spectrum about how health & wellness is defined and incorporating many aspects of the food production process into communications, marketing and innovation is becoming less of an option, and more of an expectation for those looking to maintain future relevance. Just like phone calls have been joined by texting, social media and it's various applications, addressing consumer interest in health & wellness is about offering multiple platforms from which to reassure consumers about their choices.

To view the full interview with Justin, click here.