A Motivated Subset
Producing foods that are simple and wholesome is what clean label consumers want, providing nostalgia to a different time when people were more closely involved in the methods of production. Organic consumers also tend to want these things, and they want assurances that the food they eat is produced under more stringent guidelines and is healthier than conventionally grown food.
Clean label and organic consumers make up a relatively small part of the population. However, all consumers hold similar opinions about the safety, quality, and healthfulness of foods, which leads many people to buy organic and clean label products.
Many consumers think that these product features are premium, better-for-you, and better for animals and the planet. Most consumers are also willing to pay more for such products. Expanding product availability to different neighborhoods and selling these foods in venues where they have traditionally not been available (e.g., convenience stores) are key to increasing access and awareness. As production processes change to accommodate the desire for cleaner foods, prices can drop and more consumers will be able to afford these products and purchase them regularly.
The Organic and Clean Label Food Shopper, 2nd Edition
examines the dynamics of the current organic and clean label landscape, including shifts in consumer usage rates, cross-usage, psychographics, and demographics. Organic products in the scope of this study include food and beverage products that are USDA certified organic and organic ingredients. Clean label products in the scope of this study are harder to define, as there is no established definition of “clean label”. Products focused on in this study include those with animal welfare claims, environmentally friendly claims, “free from” claims (e.g., preservatives, additives, hormones, artificial ingredients, pesticides, antibiotics, gluten), and a number of other characterizations such as grass-fed, plant-based, natural, non-GMO, and local.
The reasons for and implications of shifts in consumer perception and behavior are analyzed in the context of future market opportunities for product manufacturers as well as for retail channels (natural/specialty vs. mass/value), including private-label and internet opportunities.
Analysis draws largely on two primary sources of consumer data. The first source is the Packaged Facts National Online Consumer Survey, which includes a panel of 2,000 U.S. adults (age 18 and older) that is balanced to the national population on primary demographic measures such as age cohort, gender, geographic region, marital status, race/ethnicity, presence or absence of children in the household, and household income.
The second source of primary consumer data in this report are Simmons Reports from MRI-Simmons. On an ongoing basis, Simmons conducts booklet-based surveys of large and randomly selected samples of consumers (approximately 25,000 for each 12-month survey compilation), which, as an aggregate, are intended to represent a statistically accurate cross-section of the U.S. population.
In addition, the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2019 Food & Health Survey provided valuable insight into consumers’ perspectives on the safety of the U.S. food supply and other pertinent topics.
Secondary sources consulted for this report include trade associations, environmental and animal-welfare advocacy groups, and third-party credentialing organizations, as well as trade, business, and consumer publications. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture websites provided information on labeling and other regulations affecting organic and clean label foods.
A lot of consumers are hesitant to place much trust in the food supply. Many fear foodborne illness outbreaks and chemical contaminants and further believe that standards for animal welfare are not upheld in agriculture. Distrust of “industrial food” has led some consumers to seek out new avenues for food, including local farmers’ markets and independent shops that source locally grown produce and products from locally raised animals. However, these consumers also shop in a number of bigger stores such as supermarkets, mass merchandisers, and wholesale clubs and expect to find products that promise something different than conventionally produced food.
“Clean label” covers three broad areas of concern — what is in the food, how the food is produced, and who produces it. Examples of factors important to clean labels include:
recognizable ingredients and fewer of them
minimal processing without preservatives, additives, or artificial ingredients
produced without pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or GMOs
sustainable, environmentally responsible production practices
reduced waste/carbon footprint in production, packaging, and transportation
product traceability and company transparency
ethical, socially conscious business practices
truth in advertising
Clean label is a spectrum, as some products may be perceived as “cleaner” than others and opinions differ from person to person. In general though, consumers believe that companies cannot hide behind clean label claims printed on the package, as ingredient and nutritional panels speak for themselves and allow a consumer to accurately judge how clean a product is.