Clean(er) Label 101: what is it and why it matters

5 Jul 2024

In today’s health-conscious world, consumers increasingly seek food products that align with their well-being. Hence the concept of clean label - a term that resonates with those who want simplicity, transparency, and wholesome ingredients in their food choices. But what exactly does clean label mean, and why should it matter to both consumers and food brands? 

What Does Clean Label Mean?

There is no legal definition of clean(er) label. Clean label is often used to describe foods that do not contain ingredients that are perceived as artificial and that are not easily understood by regular consumers. The essence lies in using minimal ingredients - ones that are recognizable and wholesome. This means that the concept is more than just an ingredient list. It’s a commitment to providing clean(er) food solutions with clear and transparent information to help consumers make informed food choices. Food additives are substances that are added to foods primarily for technical purposes. Food manufacturers are required to indicate which additives are present in their products. They are added to ensure that processed foods remain safe and fresh throughout their journey from factories and industrial kitchens, to warehouses and stores, and finally to consumers. 

Young woman taking loaf of bread while buying food in supermarket.

Additives are also used to modify the sensory properties of foods, including taste, aroma, texture and appearance.

What Are Clean Label Ingredients and Products?

Clean-label products prioritize simplicity and transparency. Therefore, consumers attracted to these products seek short, easy-to-understand ingredient lists featuring familiar items they can find in their own kitchen cupboards. Think about fruits, flours, honey, natural vanilla extract and other natural flavorings, such as citrus zest and spices. 

There is a general trend to avoid all e-numbers as they sound too abstract for most consumers. For example, a cake that has calcium phosphate (E341i) and sodium diphosphate (E450) in the ingredient list will probably not attract consumers’ attention. However, all three ingredients are part of baking powder, an ingredient that is found in every kitchen and used in cake batter to make it lighter. Consumers will perceive a cake that simply lists "baking powder" in the ingredient list as a clean-label cake. 

Remember, the clean label concept is not just a trend—it’s a commitment to better, more transparent food choices. Consumers appreciate it, and your food brand thrives by embracing it.

Why does clean label matter to consumers?

  1. Health and well-being: Consumers are increasingly health-conscious. They want to know what they’re putting into their bodies. Clean-label products, with recognizable ingredients, align with their desire for healthier choices.
  2. Transparency and trust: Clean labels provide transparency. Consumers appreciate knowing exactly what’s in their food. Brands that prioritize clean labels build trust with their audience.
  3. Taste and authenticity: Consumers associate natural, wholesome ingredients with authentic taste.

How to Achieve a Clean Label for Your Food Brand?

  • Shorten the ingredients list and simplify formulations: Consumers perceive products with shorter ingredient lists as cleaner. Simplify your formulations by using fewer components or by using clean(er) label raw materials. Follow the "every ingredient has a reason to be”-approach and do not over-engineer.
  • Replace artificial ingredients starting from the basic that is NAFNAC (no artificial flavors nor colors).
  • Clear packaging: Make your packaging simple and transparent. Highlight clean label claims on the front of the package.
  • Be more sustainable: The clean-label trend is also about the transparency of sourcing and production. Consider sustainable and local sourcing, eco-friendly packaging and work with food ingredient suppliers that prioritize ethical production. 

Embracing clean label principles in food production not only benefits your consumers but also sets your food brand apart in a competitive market. 

How can food brands meet the expectations of conscious consumers?

Food brands can meet the expectations of consumers for clean-label products by following several key strategies:

1. Be transparent in ingredient lists and labeling:

  • Clear Ingredient Lists: Use simple, recognizable terms in ingredient lists. 
  • Full Disclosure: Provide information on the additive's role in the final products. Which ones are preservatives, and which ones are colors?
  • Certifications: Display relevant certifications, such as organic, non-GMO, fair trade, and gluten-free, to build trust and credibility.
  • Clear Information On-pack: Design packaging that clearly conveys clean label attributes and benefits.

2. Focus on natural and minimally processed ingredients:

  • Natural Sources: Prioritize ingredients that are naturally sourced and minimally processed. Examples include whole grains, natural sweeteners, and fresh fruits.
  • Avoid Artificial Flavors: Eliminate artificial flavors and replace them with natural ones.
  • Clean Label Alternatives: Explore natural alternatives for common additives, use beet juice for red color and rosemary extract as a preservative for example.

3. Be innovative in product development:

  • Reformulation: Revise existing product formulations to remove or replace additives while maintaining taste and quality.
  • New Product Lines: Develop new product lines specifically designed to meet clean label standards, targeting health-conscious and environmentally aware consumers.

4. Engage and educate consumers:

  • Educational Content: Provide informative content on packaging, websites, and social media about the benefits of clean-label ingredients and practices, as well as the purpose and nature of additives inside.
  • Transparency in Communication: Be open about steps taken to ensure product quality and safety. Share stories about ingredient sourcing and production methods.
  • Customer Feedback: Actively seek and respond to customer feedback to continuously improve products and meet consumer expectations.

5. Collaborations and partnerships:

  • Work with Experts: Collaborate with food scientists and sustainability experts to ensure products meet consumers’ clean label expectations.
  • Trusted Suppliers: Partner with suppliers who are also committed to clean label practices to maintain ingredient integrity.

Clean label is not just a trend

The clean label trend is not just a passing fad, but a reflection of consumers' growing demand for transparency, authenticity, and healthier food choices. By embracing clean label principles, food brands can not only meet the needs of their health-conscious consumers but also set themselves apart in a competitive market.


Puratos, a global supplier known for its innovative solutions in the bakery, patisserie, and chocolate sectors offers, among its wide offer, full clean label solutions (no additive) such as single origins chocolate, real chocolate that does not contain lecithin and several bread improvers which allows the production of bread with consistent quality and exceptional taste and texture. In addition, an extended range of Puratos ingredients abides by consumers' clean(er) label expectations. These solutions empower bakers, patissiers, and chocolatiers to create clean(er) label products that align with consumer demand for natural, wholesome, and transparent food items.