Clean Label Essentials for Natural Product Companies

Want to understand your supplement ingredients without needing a biomedical engineering degree to decipher the label?  You’re not alone. More consumers are seeking “clean label” products that offer transparent and simple labels. The market research firm Euromonitor estimates clean label global food and supplement sales will rise from $165 billion in 2015 to $180 billion by 2020.  Boost sales by creating clean labels to attract buyers seeking transparency.

What exactly does clean label mean? It’s confusing because no formal agreed-upon definition exists. This stems from consumers desiring a variety of product characteristics: transparency, USDA organic, no artificial ingredients, non-GMO, hormone and antibiotic free, and locally grown.

People increasingly want specific product characteristics for their food and beverages, and they want to ensure products meet their needs or they won’t buy.  Labels information can make or break sales. Make sure your labels are updated to meet the needs of targeted customers so they’ll choose your product.

Target Specific Customer Label Needs

Since there is no government-agency definition of clean label, consumers are just as confused as everyone else as to what this means. Buyers are clear on what they want, though. Discerning consumers seeking clean labels look for organic certification, fresh foods, familiar ingredients and easy to read and understand labels.

Discover your customer’s ideal needs so you can adjust labels to match. The easiest way to discover what people want is to ask.

A Cargill marketing study of 302 U.S. grocery shoppers found almost half would pay more for clean label products for their children.  So if you’re selling supplements for kids, customer feedback may signal a popular desire for an organic-certified version.  Add the organic certificate to your label to attract customers and drive sales.

Besides food consumed by children, Cargill found clean labels most appeal to consumers of functional foods. Marketers of these products can use clean labels to boost sales.

Provide Transparency and Simplicity

We’ve all stood in the grocery store puzzling over a product label bursting with multi-syllable mystery ingredients. People seeking clean foods will put that product down and reach for another item.   These consumers want labels that are easy to read and understand.

This means the label ingredients are familiar and not difficult to pronounce.   Once example of simplifying an ingredient list is to use vitamin B12 in lieu of the vitamin’s scientific name cyanocobalamin. There are 56 names for sugar.  Keep it simple whenever possible.

Natural product companies can reformulate products to meet clean label demand.  Maybe your product can be made with a shorter ingredient list or a more wholesome ingredient.

New formulations can be used as opportunities to create products with simple ingredient lists that appeal to targeted markets. Google natural product trends to find innovative bestsellers. Smart companies can discover new popular ingredient trends and capitalize on buyer needs.

Label Legalities

Make sure claims made on labels have research back up. You don’t want to end up with a supplement labeling class action lawsuit, like Universal Protein Supplements Corporation (which does business as Universal Nutrition, Universal USA and/or Animal Pak) which allegedly violated California law by labeling supplements “Made in USA”.

“Food companies must understand their product, its ingredients and its processing so labeling statements narrowly tailor claims to properly reflect the product,” says David L. TerMolen, partner and member of the food industry team at the Chicago law firm Freeborn & Peters L.L.P.   The Institute for Legal Reform’s The Food Court Paper states food marketing class actions increased from about 20 in 2008 to over 425 active cases in federal courts in 2015 and 2016.  Avoid court by using caution before making label claims.

Customers are paying more attention to product labels as they seek products that meet their individual needs. Although clean labels mean different things to different people, smart companies can use guidelines to target discerning customers.  Why not grab your slice of the projected $180 billion clean label pie?

Kendeyl Johansen, a tech geek and award-winning journalist, creates multimedia health and wellbeing content.

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