The Clean Label Conference 2019

For the past three years, Third Wave Bioactives has been a sponsor, exhibitor, and attendee of the Global Food Forum’s Clean Label Conference outside of Chicago, IL.  The 2019 conference was once again well attended and we gained insights into the trends and challenges of the Clean Label market.    

The conference started with Understanding the Clean Label Movement & What it Means for the Industry presented by Mindy Hermann with Innova Market Insights.  Mindy spoke about the mindful choices that are driving plant-based innovation, and that consumers perceive plant-based foods to be healthier and cleaner options. Animal welfare and sustainability are top priorities when choosing these foods and that 53% of Generation Z are concerned with the sustainability of the planet, and half of Millennials are concerned with the environmental impact.  She reported that one in four consumers consider a product to be clean label if it has a short ingredient list (less than 5) and is non-GMO and that they expect clean labels to communicate trust, transparency, and sustainability.

Dr. Joanne Slavin, Professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota, presented Do Cleaner Labels have Unintended Health Consequences?  She spoke that today’s dietary recommendations for clean eating are consumer driven and not backed by science and that the unintended health consequences of clean eating include eating disorders, nutrient deficiencies, and can give false hope.  She spoke of Ultra-Processed foods and that they are the villain of today’s food choices and that there is a distrust of food technology, even if that technology is being used to solve nutrition issues (low sodium, increase fiber, minerals, vitamins).  The growth in clean eating has also led to an increase in the eating disorder Orthorexia Nervosa, which is a fixation on the virtue of food or unhealthy obsession with healthy eating resulting in malnourishment and unhealthy weight loss.

Challenges & Solutions for “Preservative-Free” Microbial-Safe Foods was presented by Dr. Kathy Glass, Associate Director at the Food Research Institute in Madison, WI.  She spoke of the ideal versus reality of making processed foods safe.  The inability to quickly chill large quantities of thermodynamically prepared foods, the presence of heat-resistant microbes, and the temperature abuse and recontamination of processed foods at both the retail and consumer levels all contribute to potential areas of foodborne illness.  There are 48 Million episodes of foodborne illness per year resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths and cause an economic impact of $7 Billion USD annually.  Even with Good Manufacturing Practices, the occurrence of Listeriosis in Ready-to-Eat meats put the U.S. on a fast track to find solutions (aka preservatives) to combat these outbreaks.  However, the Clean Label movement has now changed consumers view of preservatives, and new solutions are needed that fit the mold (fermentates, protective and starter cultures).  While these label-friendly solutions can vary between suppliers, they can be applied to a wide variety of foods and ingredient companies are actively developing alternatives to synthetic preservatives.

Speakers also touched on subjects such as label-friendly surfactants & emulsifiers, formation of natural flavors, effect of color on odor perception, clean label supply chain, impact of regulatory requirements, and clean label fats & oils.  There were also a selection of Technology Snapshots that highlight new ingredients that provide benefits to formulators striving for simplified, consumer-friendly labels. 

Interested in learning more about clean label formulating and how Third Wave Bioactives can help?  Visit our website at