Clean Label: Fact or Fiction?


If you look at the food and eating trends that have existed over the last 100 years, it’s clear that we have come full circle.

Prior to the 20th century, everyone ate more natural foods. They ate seasonally grown fruit and vegetables, visited the local butcher, and baked their own bread. And then everything changed.

The two World Wars demanded food that could be preserved as it was shipped to the front lines. As more women entered the workforce, convenience became king in the kitchen. Industrialization and innovations in food manufacturing made it easier than ever to mass produce food.

Today, it’s to the point where 70% of the food we eat in America is processed.

And yet, over the past ten years or so, our culture has been making its way back to “real food.” With the help of new research in health and nutrition, food documentaries, and FDA regulations that expose what’s in our food, we’ve finally reached the end of our processed obsession and are back to believing that natural, clean food is best for our bodies, souls and overall health.

We want “Clean Labels.”

But is “clean label” real? Is it even possible? Isn’t everything you buy from a grocery store packaged, processed and shipped?

What does it mean to have a “clean label?”

Clean label means that we are moving toward ingredient decks and recipes that remove gums, stabilizers, preservatives, additives and more. It means that we are trending to make our food more recognizable, understandable and real.

It does not mean that manufacturing is dead or that processed grains, sugars and spices will wither away but that the ones we choose to eat will be closer to nature.

Should your brand move toward a cleaner label?

In short, yes. If your ingredients deck has some mysterious additives or confusing terms, you should definitely consider simplifying for a few reasons:

1. Modern consumers favor healthier foods.

Today’s shopper wants to know what is in their food and be confident that it is healthy. According to a recent survey, 27% of consumers say that health concerns influence their food choices and 41% believe that limited or no artificial ingredients or preservatives define “natural” food. Your product will better appeal to these customers if you formulate the ingredients and position your brand with health and transparency in mind.

2. Millennial shoppers demand good behavior from companies.

The Millennial generation, which is aging into their 30s and making up a larger percentage of the grocery-buying population, is very mindful that what they purchase is good for themselves and the world at large. They care about the impact of food on the culture, on the environment, and on their bodies, and they are more likely to buy your product if your label reflects clean, natural, sustainable ingredients.

3. This trend toward health and simplicity will benefit everyone.

Unlike other questionable low calorie, low fat, low carb fads and trends over the past few decades, the clean ingredient movement is undoubtedly a healthier alternative to food that is laden with additives and preservatives. As more families and more companies adopt the clean eating mindset, the healthier our country will be.

This is a wonderful and important movement for both the food industry overall and for our own families. I have been watching this trend truly blossom over the past few years and I’m hopeful and excited to see it become more prevalent, recognized, and celebrated.

Does having a clean label matter to your brand? Let us know in the comments!

Packaging Spotlight: Legit Organics

New products hit the market on a daily basis but every so often, a product comes along that warrants attention. Legit Organics, headquartered in Ashland, Oregon, recently released a line of organic candy products targeted toward a young, modern audience. Organic candy is an innovative development, but what we’re caught on is the unique branding, logo and package design. The traditional candy market has a very distinct look and style but Legit Organics stands apart from the rest- for better or for worse.

We asked a few graphic designers and consumers to give us their take on the new packaging. Their answers may surprise you (or make you laugh out loud):

  • “I love the logo, and even the gold and black presentation. The flow of the type reads ‘dreamy and far out man’. The color presentation says it’s a little more adult than smoking in your parent’s basement. I get premium and unafraid organic, something that I feel is lacking in the marketplace. Too many organic products focus only on the Birkenstock hippie market but everyone I know eats organic something, none of them wear ugly sandals or live in a commune.”
  • “The lettering is beautiful, interesting and very clear to read. All of the reflection and highlighting speaks to manmade, processed, glitz & drama- not natural. The background subjects are very urban and evoke excitement. It is reminiscent of motorcycle/sports car brand marks or even nightclubs and the product illustration evokes strong appetite appeal.”
  • “I don’t think it comes across as a candy product. It’s visually appealing but I don’t connect the fonts and images with the product and market it represents. Yes, it is innovative and original but if it weren’t for the picture of the candy I would never know it was a chocolate bar- and probably wouldn’t buy it.”
  • “The packages are very nicely designed. With that said, these really aren’t my cup of Cristal. The R&B slant on (read: pandering to) urban nightlife is a little played. I know R&B is the thing, but everyone from energy shots to electronic cigarettes are vying to call it their own, applying it to late night munchies seems a little too silly to be taken seriously. I sure hope they have some B-list celebrities endorse them.”
  • “I feel like the overall look is a complete disconnect from the organic roots of the product. Nothing about clubbing at 2 in the morning says healthy to me. The style feels throwback 80’s, which feels a little dated but then again I’m from the generation they are reliving here. They’ll probably sell like crazy.”

Regardless of personal opinion, Legit Organics is making a splash in the candy market that may ultimately change consumer perception of organic products. By creating an organic label that feels cool, rich, and bold, they are paving the way for other companies to experiment with organic labels in new and different ways. We’re excited and curious to see how the market receives their product!