Third Wave Bioactives was a recent sponsor of the 5th annual Clean Label Conference outside of Chicago, IL which was put on by the Global Food Forums. It was well attended and provided good collaboration among food manufacturers and ingredient suppliers all looking to create or help provide clean label solutions.
The conference started with a talk by Alan Rownan, a Research Analyst with Euromoniter International, on Increasing Consumer Confidence and Driving Value Through Clean Label Claims Globally. Alan addressed the term “clean label” and that it does not have a true definition, however, there is a consistency of what consumers are looking for: a short ingredient list, recognizable ingredients, an absence of artificial and chemical ingredients, and an absence of unnecessary ingredients. Alan’s talk ended with the trend of food companies moving away from “no artificial” to “all natural”, however, this broader claim was addressed in the talk given by Chip English, a partner with Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP, who spoke about Emerging Clean Label Claims: Regulations & Liabilities.
Chip’s experience of food labeling claims found that the terms “100%”, “Pure”, and “All” will be looked at more closely as they can bring false or misleading claims on food products. Chip also addressed that some food companies have adopted the term “natural” on their product labels to market to consumers looking for clean labels. The FDA, however, is still working on the definition of what a “natural” ingredient is and is also in the process of redefining the “healthy” claim for food labeling. Consumers should be aware that many words on a food label are for marketing purposes and not necessarily for nutritional claims, so they should check the ingredient list and nutritional facts to make informed purchases. For more information on how the FDA is defining the term “natural” you can visit their website.
To help provide insight into tools for maintaining high quality and safe products throughout shelf-life using “clean” alternatives, Dr. Matthew Taylor, an Associate Professor at Texas A&M, spoke of Emerging Research to Practical Approaches on Natural Antimicrobial Use. The FDA classifies food antimicrobials as preservatives and they fall into two main categories: traditional which are synthetic and regulatory approved, and natural which are plant and microbial derived. The natural antimicrobials are desirable for a clean label; however, their effectiveness is best described as static, in which they help inhibit the microorganisms present in food from causing spoilage, but they do not have cidal activity, or kill the microorganisms present. There is much work being done in this area to bridge the gap between traditional and natural antimicrobials.
Other speakers focused on the use of natural sweeteners and flavorings as well as naturally-derived antioxidants and new product offerings to bring cleaner label alternatives and enhance shelf-life. Overall, we brought home knowledge of what consumers are looking for, how the FDA is handling these constant labeling changes, and the challenges that food manufacturers are facing on creating healthy and shelf-stable food products that offer clear and clean labeling for their consumers.