Natural Products Insider

NOV-DEC 2018

INSIDER is the leading information source for marketers, manufacturers and formulators of dietary supplements, healthy foods and cosmeceuticals. Since 1997, INSIDER has been serving the needs of the global nutrition industry.

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36 INSIDER November/December 2018 abused is a bummer. It confuses consumers and erodes trust on a market scale. That erosion requires the brands and products with integrity to pivot further and make sure their communications are clear and cut through the clutter." When it comes to those companies intentionally practicing deception, Hughes cautioned, "Consumers really care about authenticity, transparency and integrity. So trying to fool them into buying products that look 'green' but aren't really 'green' is a big gamble," particularly in an age where "consumers are voting with their dollars." The NMI report concurred, indicating approximately 40 percent of consumers in the lifestyles of health and sustainability (LOHAS) group stopped buying a product after learning a company didn't practice social or environmental responsibility. The data also showed three-fourths of the general population agreed with the statement that almost all companies are saying they're environmentally friendly, so it's hard to know who's telling the truth. Although Matures were the most mistrustful (84 percent), the younger generations were more likely to seek confi rmation of a company's altruism. Approximately half of Millennials and Gen Xers reported they look for proof when a company makes a claim about being socially or environmentally responsible, and in general, nearly one-third of both demographics research a company's accountability stance prior to purchasing its products. Organic Valley has been at the forefront of truth in advertising for a quarter century. "When we started out telling our authentic and transparent, farm-to-table, organic story over 25 years ago, using images of our farmer as heroes, we didn't really expect the day big ag and big food would so closely mimic our communications," Hughes shared. "When we have massive, well-funded brands crowding the marketplace with their food/farm stories, there is no doubt consumers are going to get confused. Some consumers will take it at face value, but others will be more skeptical and want to know more." Challenges Abound Even the most well-meaning companies can fi nd themselves on the wrong side of clean label—which often circles back to a catch-22 in consumer perception. Tracy offered the example of organic maltodextrin. "Consumers see the organic claim and associate it with clean label because of its clear and regulated labeling guidelines. They can trust that the product is going to meet the standard it promises. Yet, the base material, maltodextrin, is not perceived as clean label. In fact, only 9 percent of consumers globally fi nd this ingredient acceptable according to our proprietary consumer study. This confl icting messaging creates a disjointed value proposition and diminishes the credibility of the product to the consumer. Ensuring a connection between labeling and consumer perception will only become more important as manufacturers adapt to support the growing demand for transparency." Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., principal at Corvus Blue LLC, indicated many factors can complicate clean label. For instance, "Flavor ingredients commonly incorporate propylene glycol as a solvent and emulsifi er for fl avor mixtures. Science shows the ingredient to be safe in the amounts used in foods. Because propylene glycol is derived from petroleum—which, by the way, occurs in nature—it is not considered a clean label ingredient and scares some food manufacturers from including it or declaring in on their labels." Shelke clarifi ed that when used as a processing aid in accordance with food laws, propylene glycol can be used in clean label products—just not declared openly, "because it is a part of the benign catch-all term 'natural fl avor.'" As a certifi ed food scientist, Shelke is particularly concerned when consumers lacking a thorough understanding of nutrition force the hand of manufacturers. She identifi ed a "prevailing misconception that honey or agave is somehow safer and better than common sucrose (table sugar) or high-fructose corn syrup. Science- based evidence shows it is the amount of added mono- and di-saccharides in a product that separates the nutritious from the harmful." She added, "Refi ned starches used in clean label gluten-free versions of consumer favorites—when consumed by those who are not clinically tested for gluten allergy—have a high risk of unhealthy blood sugar and triglyceride levels. What's clean for ignorant activists lacking a science and nutrition education is far from clean, and downright harmful for food scientists with a solid understand of nutrition and physiology." Shelke said another ingredient drawing consumer scrutiny is carrageenan, "a seaweed-derived emulsifi er misconceived as being harmful to the gut." She noted its functionality often delivers the right emulsifi cation and therefore, the expected appearance and texture in nondairy beverages that require stabilization for even suspension without separation during storage and handling. Alternatives have not proven as effective in many beverage formulations, so Shelke recommended using carrageenan in formulations, but partnering it with education detailing how the ingredient works, that it has been used safely for millennia, why the amounts used are safe, and what carrageenan offers in the beverage. Claims and Certifi cations One route brands can go to set themselves apart is through claims and certifi cations—but again, consumers are increasingly savvy and searching for authentication. According to Tracy, "Understanding Food & Beverage: Clean Label vs. Clean Washing

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