KANSAS CITY — The definition of clean label may vary from consumer to consumer, as well as from food company to food company and from retailer to retailer. Among the range of definitions, certain characteristics remain constant: products void of artificial preservatives, colors or flavors.

Ingredient suppliers responding to this trend continue to offer innovations in natural alternatives, energy that was evident in many exhibitor booths at IFT18, the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and exposition held July 15-18 in Chicago.

A move by US Foods Holding Corp., Rosemont, Ill., was a recent example of clean label focus. The company on July 9 said its entire line of Metro Deli, Rykoff Sexton, Chef’s Line and Stock Yards Exclusive Brand products will be created following a new Unpronounceable list initiative, which aims to remove hard-to-pronounce ingredients from the ingredient list of products. Artificial flavors and colors are among more than 80 ingredients on the Unpronounceable list as are the preservatives BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone).

Likewise, Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas, a business unit of Amazon Inc., has a list of unacceptable ingredients, which include artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

Kemin clean label snacksRemoving BHA, BHT and TBHQ from products was a focus at IFT18 for DuPont Nutrition & Health, now a part of DowDuPont Specialty Products Division. DuPont Nutrition & Health promoted its new Guardian Toco 30P, a tocopherol-based powdered antioxidant. The ingredient has demonstrated efficiency in low-moisture foods like cereal and nutrition bars. Guardian Toco 30P contains mixed tocopherols, which are more effective as antioxidants than a-tocopherol alone, according to DuPont Nutrition & Health.

The powder mix may be blended with other dry ingredients in applications, said Y Joy Zhong, Ph.D., senior application scientist — food production for DuPont Nutrition & Health and based in New Century, Kas. Guardian Toco 30P has a low sensory impact and no color impact, according to the company. It is purely for food applications, not pharmaceuticals.

Kemin Industries, Des Moines, Iowa, recently added Fortium RVC, a rosemary and ascorbic acid blend, to its antioxidant portfolio. It has been shown to work in bakery and snack applications.

“This new blend of our rosemary and ascorbic acid is a great complement to our proprietary oil-soluble green tea extract and more traditional options, such as mixed tocopherols and synthetics,” said Courtney Schwartz, principal marketing communications manager for Kemin Food Technologies. “Fortium RVC helps fill the gap between efficacy and clean label as manufacturers continue to respond to consumer demand for consumer-friendly labels.”

Rising demand for naturally sourced food colors, which goes along with increasing consumer awareness of clean label products, is driving the food colors category, according to a report from MarketsandMarkets, Pune, India, released in July. The report projects the global food colors market, estimated at $3.88 billion in 2018, to experience a compound annual growth rate of 5.7% to reach $5.12 billion by 2023.

Naturally sourced blue may be obtained from blue-green algae called spirulina (Arthrospira platensis). Elena Leeb, who works in research and development for the GNT Group, was a panelist in an IFT18 symposium on spirulina. She provided insight into the quality and functionality of spirulina as a naturally sourced color solution. Potential applications include confections, baked foods, decorative sugars and coatings.

Organic clean label soupHuito, a South American fruit, is another natural source for blue color. Archer Daniels Midland Co., Chicago, sampled a “purple power-up drink” that contained huito at IFT18. Blue color from huito is acid-stable, meaning it may work in low pH beverages like sports drinks. The color from huito falls under Food and Drug Administration fruit juice regulations and may be labeled as fruit juice on ingredient lists, or it also may be labeled as huito.

Recent innovation in natural flavors has centered around vanilla.

Solvay, Princeton, N.J., introduced Rhovanil US Nat to the U.S. market at IFT18. The ingredient meets U.S. natural flavor regulations and has been shown to work as a one-for-one drop-in replacement for synthetic vanillin. Potential applications include chocolate, confectionery, bakery and beverages. Solvay at IFT18 featured Rhovanil in waffles and cookies.

Prova, which has a U.S. office in Danvers, Mass., featured vanilla alternatives with other natural flavors that have been shown to work as full or partial replacements of vanilla extracts.

Organic growth a constant in clean label

Clean label concerns may ebb and flow. Perhaps a sharp consumer focus may switch from avoiding azodicarbonamide to avoiding aspartame. Yet one category keeps riding a constant wave of sales growth.

U.S. organic food sales reached $45.2 billion in 2017, a 6.4% increase from 2016, according to the Organic Trade Association, Washington. U.S. organic food sales have more than doubled from $20.4 billion in 2008.

About 31% of U.S. respondents said they were consuming organic foods or beverages daily or weekly in a 2018 organic and natural report from The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash. Another 14% said they were consuming such products monthly. The percentages compared to 2008 percentages of 19% for daily or weekly and 8% for monthly.

Pak Group North America, Pasadena, Calif., has taken note of the organic growth and expanded its organic ingredient portfolio through its North American brand, Bellarise. This year the company launched Bellarise BellaSponge Organic, a dough conditioner. Other ingredients in the portfolio include BellaSoft organic bread softeners and Bellarise organic gluten replacers.

Organic usage chart

“By earning organic certification for our continually expanding lineup of custom Bellarise dough conditioners and softeners, we opened a door for industrial and commercial bakeries to take clean label even further and bake breads that resonate with the U.S. market’s evolving set of values and preferences for organic foods,” said Cam Suárez-Bitár, marketing and public relations manager for Pak Group North America. “As millennials and Generation Z take a more prominent role in driving the U.S. consumer economy, the role of organic foods will only increase over time. So it made sense for us to develop premium organic dough conditioning and softening systems that help our customers bake top quality organic breads, snacks, rolls and buns.”

Pak Group formed global partnerships with enzyme producers, which allowed the company to formulate organic Bellarise ingredients and test them in a variety of applications.

“Finding the right producers involved a thorough vetting process by which we judge enzyme quality and dependability, thereby allowing bakers to focus more on baking and less on quality control and consistency challenges,” Mr. Suárez-Bitár said.

Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., in June launched Novation Prima 309 and 609 functional native corn starches that are certified organic. The starches are designed to perform in organic products that undergo harsh processing conditions and require high freeze/thaw stability. Savory foods, alternative-dairy products and baby foods are examples. Ingredion featured the Novation Prima 609 organic starch in an organic sweet corn eloté soup at IFT18, the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and exposition held July 15-18 in Chicago.

“Consumer demand for clean label organic products, especially organic baby foods, continues to grow at a strong pace,” said Pat O’Brien, senior manager of marketing for the Wholesome springboard at Ingredion, Inc., North America. “With a large number of corn starches on the market derived from conventional sources, having certified organic, clean label functional corn starches available with Novation Prima 309 and 609 is a significant benefit for manufacturers and consumers. The starches perform even in cold temperatures and maintain stability throughout freeze/thaw cycles to create appealing flavors and textures, making the products an indispensable part of the product developer’s tool kit.”