Clean label 2.0?

by Keith Nunes
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KANSAS CITY — The Beech-Nut Nutrition Co. is taking the clean label trend a step further and it is a move that may have implications for the entire food and beverage category.

On May 20, Beech-Nut said it had started listing the percentage of each ingredient for its entire line of jar and pouch baby-food products on its web site. Click here to view the web site.

“All parents want the best for their babies, and they want to know exactly what they are eating,” said Jeff Boutelle, president of Beech-Nut. “We don’t want parents to worry about the foods they’re feeding their babies, which is why we’re sharing our recipes.”

The clean label trend, which began as an effort to simplify product formulations, may be evolving into a form of transparency that was unimaginable a decade ago. As Beech-Nut is showing, the next step in clean label is less about the ingredients themselves and more about the amounts. One may easily imagine a future marketing effort in which a company points out a competitor has X% more of an ingredient that is perceived as “clean,” but may also have a negative connotation attached to it. Such an initiative would shift the conversation from efforts to attain a clean, simple label and to defining a “clean product.”

There has been a sea change, with increasing numbers of consumers seeking more transparency from the food and beverage industry and shunning artificial ingredients, according to Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md. Eighty-seven per cent of Americans look at the Nutrition Facts Panel on packaged foods and beverages at least sometimes, while more than half (56%) actively seek out nutritional information and guidelines, the market research firm said.

If more companies follow in Beech-Nut’s tracks, and it’s safe to say some will, it is going to put an additional burden on product developers and marketers. Product formulations are proprietary, but companies that do not make an effort at transparency similar to Beech-Nut’s may be accused of hiding information. It’s what Beech-Nut is doing in the infant and toddler market and it will be interesting to see if the effort is effective and transcends the category.

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