Clean Label Everywhere at IFT 2017


If the featured sessions served to inspire attendees to look beyond consumer sentiment, the exhibitors on the show floor of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Food Expo delivered prime examples of consumer trends in action. A walk through the IFT expo seemed to buoy the idea that the non-GMO movement is a passing fad (or at least a trend with a ceiling). The amount of booths dedicated toward non-GMO products and sourcing were demonstrably less than last year. That said, if non-GMO was the trend du jour of previous years, clean label took that mantle for 2017.

A Growing Trend
Kerry defines clean label as “an industry term to describe consumer desire to know what is in our food, where it is grown and how it is processed.” Clean label products are growing five times faster than the rest of the market, demonstrating continued consumer interest in this trend. Still, the concept of clean label is in its infancy. According to Kerry research, only 58% of consumers are familiar with the term, with the majority of them associating it with healthy lifestyles and natural/fresh products. To that end, what clean label means to consumers continues to evolve.

Different Definitions
This evolution of clean label was apparent in walking the show room floor as nearly every food exhibit featured a clean label solution. For some manufacturers, clean label meant local product sourcing, for others, it meant the removal of certain “bad” ingredients or allergens. Some took the concept of clean label even further by encouraging manufacturers to trace ingredients back to their facilities to ensure proper certification. Regardless, the concept of transparency and demystifying ingredient lists for consumers was a dominant theme throughout the exhibits.

Clean Label for Kerry
Kerry’s booth offerings helped bring clean label into focus by highlighting products that could help customers reduce and simplify ingredient statements as well as help re-position brands in this label-centric consumer landscape. A chief example of this was Kerry’s “clean label queso dip,” which replaces added sodium phosphates, citrates, sorbic acid, preservatives and hydrocolloids with simple and recognizable ingredients. Kerry also showcased a gluten-free “spicy Asian taco featuring plant-based protein shreds.” By using a plant-based meat alternative, these tacos delivered an excellent source of protein and fiber without compromising on taste. Nearly all of the products showcased by Kerry touched on some aspect of clean label, mirroring the sentiment on the show floor that clean label is a trend here to stay.

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) annual meeting and expo was held from June 26 to 28 at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas this year. With over 20,000 attendees, IFT17 brought its theme of “Go With Purpose” to life across 100 sessions and over 1,200 exhibits. Attending food scientists, suppliers and manufacturers shared their passions, learnings, and ideas on how to tackle the task of feeding the world while navigating the swirling waters of consumer trends. By the end of the three days, attendees left with a better understanding of the challenges facing the food industry while pondering the many solutions on hand to resolve the growing dichotomy between consumers and food science.

Contributed by Jonas Feliciano, Sr. Marketing Manager Market Research and Consumer Insights, Snacking.

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