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05/20/2015

Health-conscious consumers want clean, not just transparent, labels

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Increasingly, consumers are seeking more transparency from the food and beverage industry and sunning artificial ingredients. According to “Nutritional Labeling and Clean Labels in the U.S.: Future of Food Retailing,” a new report the Packaged Facts division of Rockville, Md.-based MarketResearch.com, 87 percent of Americans look at the nutrition facts panel on packaged foods and beverages at least sometimes, while more than half (56 percent) actively seek out nutritional information and guidelines.

Likewise, Packaged Facts stated, two out of three consumers (67 percent) favor groceries with fewer and simpler ingredients, while roughly the same percentage take nutritional content statements, ingredient-free statements and statements about health benefits into consideration when buying packaged foods and beverages. These consumers are becoming more vocal — through social media, focus groups, consumer surveys and even petitions — about what they want and do not want in their foods and beverages.

As consumers begin to look more closely at what goes into their foods and beverages, the industry is reformulating and repositioning mainstream products and lines to have cleaner labels, Packaged Facts said. Cognizant of what consumers want, major retailers are pushing food and beverage producers to make sweeping changes in their products. Many retailers have developed their own brands of clean-label products. Major industry initiatives include eliminating artificial coloring and flavorings, replacing artificial preservatives with natural ones, reducing added sugars, switching to GMO-free ingredients, and reducing or eliminating routine antibiotics given to animals.

Indeed, while the federal government mandates nutrition facts panels and ingredients labels on packaged foods and beverages, some marketers, retailers and foodservice providers are ahead of the pack when it comes to labeling trends, Packaged Facts stated. These companies are acting proactively as they feel the winds of change — whether from potential government legislation, nutritional recommendations, or consumer demands — and are willing to overhaul their products and even their most iconic brands, noted David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. For instance, on the national brand side:

  • Kraft Foods Group announced plans to remove artificial colors and preservatives from its flagship Original Macaroni & Cheese boxed dinner mixes beginning in January 2016.
  • The Hershey Co. announced that it will begin reformulating its products with simpler and easier-to-understand ingredients, following a three-prong strategy: simpler, using more natural ingredients; sharing ingredient information with consumers; and sourcing responsible and sustainable ingredients.
  • Tyson Foods, in late April, said that by September 2017, it expects to stop giving its chickens antibiotics that are also used in human medicine. Tyson is a major chicken supplier to McDonald’s, which a month earlier announced that its 14,000 U.S. units will stop selling chicken raised with human antibiotics within the next two years.

For more information, visit www.packagedfacts.com.