CHICAGO – The concept of clean label is multidimensional in the minds of consumers. Within the complex world of condiments, clean label may mean all-natural, non-G.M.O., no preservatives, farm grown, handmade, locally sourced, sustainably produced, minimally processed and more.

This is the first of three interviews with ingredient executives to discuss trends in condiments. The category may include dips, dressings, marinades, sauces and spreads.


Food Business News spoke with Joe Borchardt, strategic marketing director-meat, Kerry, Beloit, Wis.; Gary Augustine, executive director-market development consumers, Kalsec, Kalamazoo, Mich.; Christopher Warsow, manager of culinary applications, Bell Flavors and Fragrances, Northbrook, Ill.; Christiane Lippert, head of marketing-food, Lycored, Switzerland; Maggie Harvey, new product development manager, Mizkan Americas, Mount Prospect, Ill.; Roger Lane, marketing manager-savory flavors, Sensient Flavors, Hoffman Estates, Ill.; and Alberto Lopez, culinary scientist, LifeSpice Ingredients, Chicago.

Food Business News: What role does sourcing ingredients, authenticity and traceability play in the clean label formulating of condiments?

Mr. Borchardt: A strong sourcing strategy and program are necessities when trying to deliver condiments and sauces that are clean label and authentic. Both attributes are, at their essence, about transparency and what’s in our food.

As consumers look for more local and regional ingredients, not only do companies need to be able to source these ingredients economically, they also need to be partnering with local farmers and growers to do it sustainably. This is even more important as consumers seek labels that contain ingredients that are “real” and closer to nature.

Mr. Augustine: Millennials, in particular, want brands to be more transparent and to tell the story of their social responsibility efforts. This transparency is the evolution of clean labels to clear labels. It includes ingredient label specificity and simplicity, sourcing, processing and their respect for the planet (people, animals and environment) with which they interact.    

Mr. Warsow: Clean label is always a factor now. The world of sauces and dressings was always a pretty clean arena, but more so today. The use of modified starches has been replaced with functional native starches that work very well. Fresh and refrigerated sauces are gaining in popularity, negating the need for traditional preservative systems. Shelf stable sauces now utilize natural antioxidants and antimicrobials.

Ms. Lippert: Sourcing natural, familiar, traceable ingredients is the key to clean label. Increasingly it’s about telling a story about what food is, not just what it isn’t. You need to be able to tell consumers that what they’re eating comes from a natural fruit or vegetable they recognize and exactly where it comes from. 

Ms. Harvey: Some of the “newer” ingredients, including coconut oil, organic spices and specialty peppers are being sourced from countries and regions we are less familiar with and these may come with a new set of problems, such as preservatives, pesticide use, not organic and lack of traceability. In order to source these ingredients, a company often has to invest a lot of time to obtain appropriate assurances of quality, sustainability, reliable supply chain and authenticity.

Mr. Lane: Today’s consumers understand what global flavors are supposed to taste like so they want that authenticity when they try any food. By creating flavors directly from the source ingredient, you get a true-to-life flavor that is difficult to reproduce without it. And as consumers look toward shorter ingredient decks and more recognizable labels, they’re wanting natural flavors at the very least, if not organic. With a certified organic flavor, consumers can feel comfortable knowing what they get is properly handled throughout the supply chain.

Mr. Lopez: Clean labels are very important when it comes to the “localized worldly” movement. If one is claiming the flavors to be a nod to tradition, using artificial flavors may not go over very well, especially with younger consumers. However, if the flavor that one is going for is not achievable by using clean ingredients, or there are sourcing issues, then you may need to reconsider the flavor profile.