Natural Products Insider

NOV-DEC 2018

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38 INSIDER November/December 2018 consumer attitudes and beliefs enables manufacturers to include claims and ingredients that are of interest, believable and consistent with their expectations for a given product. Claims are designed to capture the attention of the consumer, but there's a risk to using claims that are not consistent with the ingredients and the expectations that the consumer has for the product. Consumers need clear and consistent messaging that enables them to make informed decisions, which in turn will foster credibility and trust in the brand. This is especially important as consumers—and more recently, brands—take aim at specifi c ingredients that are perceived as undesirable." Taormina offered non-genetically modifi ed organisms (GMOs) as an example. "'Non-GMO' certifi cation is diffi cult to achieve," he suggested. "There are requirements to demonstrate if the 'high risk' corn- and soy-based ingredients, for example, came from GM or non-GM varieties. If a brand or manufacturer cannot provide supply chain transparency and traceability to farm-level origin, then it could lead that brand to making 'non-GMO' claims, when in fact, some of the original crops were GM." Kristin Wheeler, communications manager at the Non-GMO Project, concurred. "We recognize the risk of greenwashing, especially when it comes to consumer choice. GMO labeling that is not clear, inclusive or meaningful will not provide consumers the GMO transparency that they have been demanding for decades," she said. "At the time the Non-GMO Project was founded, unsubstantiated GMO-free and non-GMO claims were rampant," Wheeler continued. "The retailers and industry leaders who started the organization realized that to counter greenwashing and to provide GMO transparency to shoppers, there needed to be a standardized defi nition for non-GMO products in the North American food industry. This led to the development of North America's only third-party verifi cation program completely dedicated to GMO avoidance." Zalesny echoed the importance of choosing "reliable and recognizable third-party certifi cations that are meaningful to your product and to your consumers. There are a lot of third-party certifi ers out there; it seems like every year there are more specialized certifi cations. So many manufacturers and consumers feel like these are a simple money grab. It is so important that manufacturers do a gut check and do market research to determine which certifi cations resonate and engage with their consumers. The audit process itself should feel like work. How meaningful is the audit exercise if a manager is simply signing a document and then a check?" she asked. Taormina agreed with Zalesny's sentiment that a quality third-party certifi cation can help a brand demonstrate to retailers and consumers that it is taking extra measures to ensure its label claims are truthful. In addition to non-GMO, his examples included gluten-free, raised without antibiotics, and True Source Honey. Organic is perhaps one of the strongest certifi cations, thanks in part to the efforts of the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Laura Batcha, the organization's CEO and executive director, explained, "Organic is the only eco-label that is a federally regulated and enforced term and with third-party certifi cation. There are stiff penalties for fraudulent organic labeling, and the Secretary of Agriculture and USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) are currently prioritizing efforts to further strengthen oversight and enforcement." Batcha said the third-party certifi cation entails an inspection of every certifi ed organic farm and business at least annually, unannounced and compliance inspections, collection of samples to analyze for pesticides and other prohibited substances, and suspension or revocation of organic certifi cation if organic businesses fail to comply with the rules. Tips for Brands With so many angles to consider, brands looking to support clean labels and transparent products can start with a few basics. "First, manufacturers need to understand what their target market perceives to be clean label versus not," Stephens stated. "Each consumer market has different expectations for each one of their brands. For instance, some consumers may view a food product containing no allergens as clean label. In this case, manufacturers need to vet out ingredient suppliers with robust allergen- free programs who have a track record of keeping their ingredients free from contamination. Understanding the supplier's supply chain and processes from origin to fi nal product is key in defi ning a reputable ingredient supplier." Patrick Hart, specialty grain merchant at Ardent Mills, echoed the importance of supply chain accountability. "From grower to miller, supplier, transporter, baker and end user, it's important to create partners throughout the supply chain to ensure that organic/clean label products are handled and delivered properly every step of the way." Zalesny suggested, "A second step would be for product managers to analyze the product's entire life cycle. This should start with ingredients, but also include packaging. Where the ingredient or packaging comes from, how it is produced, and where the packaging goes once it's used are important factors to understand. It is not enough to have green on the label and have consumers believe it is a clean label product. Any claims should be verifi able with data that is easy to access for consumers. At the very least, supporting data should be easy to fi nd on the companies' web pages. Labeling should use simple, transparent language that is easy to understand." Tracy concurred the importance of on-pack messaging should not be underestimated, as it plays a signifi cant role in shaping consumer perspective about the quality and believability of a product. "The type of ingredients and claims must be in-sync with the product and with each other," she affi rmed. "Consumers expect to see certain ingredients in a given product, and they associate specifi c claims with the inclusion (or exclusion) of ingredients. Disconnects between the messaging signal to the consumer that the product may not be as advertised." Perhaps the most important component of advancing clean label and transparency is educating consumers. Celeste Daughenbaugh, Corbion's global market manager, savory, said, "With ingredient innovation happening so fast, consumers must be consistently educated to help them recognize and understand what's in Food & Beverage: Clean Label vs. Clean Washing

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