Provenance at the heart of clean label
For the modern consumer transparency over where there food and supplements comes from and what they contain has become a priority. The proposition of a health product is not only an opportunity to offer the consumer something that may be beneficial to their health, it is also an opportunity for a brand to ‘come clean’ and make a clear declaration as to its ingredients and the ethics surrounding their business. It can be hugely damaging to a brand’s reputation for consumers to discover negatives about either ingredients or ethical practices through a ‘do you know what’s in that?’ type of revelation.
This desire for transparency is fuelling an ever growing clean label trend, which favours simple, natural and easy to understand products. However for some of the worlds biggest food companies transparency comes at a cost. Should products contain ingredients that have been shown to be, or may be perceived as unhealthy, this could mean either a potential loss in sales due to health concerns or a need for investment in new sources, additional processes or reformulation.
Clean sourcing and farming
Environmentally damaging practices can have an impact on brand reputation that is as equally damaging as the use of bad ingredients. One example of this is soy. Overlooking the phytoestrogen and endocrine disrupting compounds contained within soy; for vegetarians and vegans it can provide an essential source of dietary protein. However a very dim view is taken within many circles, particularly those with an affinity for nature, due to practices surrounding soy farming. The Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture projects an expansion of soy plantations from 21.5 million hectares to 26.5 million hectares by the crop year 2018/2019 putting the habitats of many of the the world endangered animal species at risk. There are also regular public protests around the world against multinational agricultural technology company Monsanto, who’s patented genetically modified variety of soybean now accounts for 90% of U.S. soy crops.
“Many people don’t know this, but, algae are the original source of marine omega-3s—fish and krill get them from their diet—ultimately from algae that they eat. Farm-grown algae as a source for omega-3s is a paradigm shift for the omega-3 industry. This represents an evolutionary jump from a hunter-gatherer technology (exploiting the marine ecosystem via fishing) to a renewable, agrarian technology…” (read more)
David Hart, VP of Marketing, Qualitas Health
Naturex, is one of many global ingredients suppliers who are placing sustainable sourcing at the forefront of their business. The company’s Sustainability Pathfinder program is an initiative that demonstrates Naturex’s ability to explore new opportunities through sustainable roads without applying a fixed model. Through Pathfinder Naturex works to develop a better understanding of local famers and their environment.
Farmers around the world are constantly presented with new challenges. Most recently is the ever growing issue of water shortage, which some have attributed to climate change. In California droughts have been so bad that water has been diverted from rivers to irrigate farm land. The state has now issued notices to some Central Valley irrigation districts to stop diverting from rivers as there isn’t enough to go around. Water management is an issue that the Almond Board of California takes very seriously and has described the drought as a ‘natural disaster’. To address the problem they have funded 87 irrigation research projects to date. With 70% of almond orchards now using micro-irrigation systems, the amount of water needed to produce each pound of almonds has been driven down by 33 per cent.
From dry farm land to the oceans, the issue of sustainability remains high on the Agenda. Qualitas Health is a supplier of non-GMO strain algae that is naturally high in EPA omega-3s and polar lipids for who claim that sustainability forms the foundation of the company’s business.
"The priority for the consumers is the transparency. Consumers are paying closer attention to ingredient lists and want to know more about the ingredients. When it comes to clean label ingredients, consumers are pretty clear about what they want: labels that are easy to recognize, simple and natural, containing no chemical-sounding or unpronounceable ingredients..." (read more)
Mathieu Donain, Director of Business Development, Nexira
The battle for transparency
Such is the desire for transparency that the communication and marketing activities of more and more health aware/focused brands now centres on provenance thereby placing ingredients suppliers and the entire supply chain in the spotlight.
Even prime time mainstream television programmes like ‘Jimmy’s Food Factory’ broadcast by the Channel 4 at 8pm, directly asks the question of where food comes from and visits ingredients suppliers such as Arla Food Ingredients in Denmark. Ingredients suppliers must therefore be more aware of end consumer concerns than ever before.
However with the potential cost associated with better quality or more responsibly sourced ingredients, some companies are reluctant to reveal all on their labels. In the U.S. food companies have directly opposed transparency, lobbying against regulations to label calorie and fat content, the use of GM ingredients, or to disclose a product’s point of origin.
In an age of digital and mass media however, consumers are able to look beyond the label and supermarket shelf in their quest to understand the origin of their food and supplements, leaving food companies of the future with few if any places left to hide.