Clean Labels vs. Ingredient Transparency: What’s the Difference?

Nutrition labelThese days, the terms “clean label” and “label transparency” are everywhere. Both are major trends in the food and beverage industry, and both are in high demand by consumers. Though hotly debated among food scientists, the Clean Label Project has made consumers more aware of what should be on ingredient lists and, just as importantly, what shouldn’t.

That said, while the terms “clean label” and “label transparency” are similar, they’re also quite different and can add to the confusion caused by today’s food labeling. Ironically, both terms are key for earning consumer trust, but they’re not interchangeable.

To help clear things up, we’re here to explain the difference.

Clean Label Trend

According to Go Clean Label™, clean label refers to food products containing natural, familiar, simple ingredients that are easy to recognize, understand, and pronounce, with no artificial ingredients or synthetic chemicals.

Driving the trend are Millennials and Generation X who consider themselves “foodies,” but a growing number of Baby Boomers are joining the movement as well. Approximately 50–75% of consumers believe that products with natural ingredients or fewer ingredients — or foods with other attributes such as better nutrition, environmental sustainability or ethical sourcing — qualify as clean label.  Not surprisingly, social media has been a major influencer in creating awareness, leading to better-for-you ingredients becoming the ‘norm’ and not the exception in the food industry.

Some manufacturers have struggled to find the balance between switching to natural, clean ingredients and maintaining profits. Returning to the days of using traditional dairy ingredients or eggs, for example, presents issues with price volatility, refrigeration and storage costs, shorter shelf lives, new equipment needs, sourcing, and a host of other challenges. Adding to the difficulty is reformulating products with new ingredients while maintaining the flavor and consistency of the original recipe.

But food manufacturers will need to raise the bar to remain competitive. Consumers want healthy, natural, simple foods, and are actively avoiding foods made with chemical modifiers. This is the core of the clean label movement, and food manufacturers must keep pace by removing artificial ingredients and chemical modifiers from their applications, and replacing them with clean, natural alternatives.

Ingredient Transparency

While clean label refers to a certain type of food, ingredient transparency is something that applies to all foods and beverages. A recent report indicated that the majority of shoppers have transparency on their minds and that 86% would feel a higher sense of trust toward food manufacturers that had complete and easy-to-understand ingredients.

Today’s consumers are demanding to know more about the ingredients they consume, and they want to know exactly what’s in their products, how they were sourced and produced, how they might affect their health, how any animals involved in the process were treated, and more.

Being transparent means being open and honest about all the ingredients used in your products (whether they qualify as “clean”), and letting consumers know how that impacts them.

Transparency and clean labels should go hand-in-hand and will be two priorities food manufacturers need to strive for going forward if they want to increase market share and appeal to these trends that are quickly becoming the norm.

To achieve those goals, choosing a supplier that values the same things and follows a strict chain of custody is key.

At Grande Custom Ingredients Group, we know how important these initiatives are and we take great pride in producing our natural whey protein products the right way. Here’s a step-by-step overview of our production process: 

To learn more about the challenges food manufacturers face in reformulating products and how Grande Bravo functional whey protein can help overcome them and clean up labels, take a look at our eBook by clicking the button below, and reach out with any questions!