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How to Clean up Your Label

In order to successfully develop a clean label product, a holistic technological

approach must be followed. The first of a two-part examination of clean label.

by Jerome Diaz

ood ingredient labels for ordinary consumers, all they ingredient labels. Thus, the need ingredients listed in the label, is
have been the source of see is E-numbers and chemical for clean labels in food products an important factor to consider.
information for consum- sounding names. came into being. This may include those ingre-
ers to learn more about the In a recent survey con- dients that consumers would
foods they consume. By provid- ducted by Kampffmeyer Food Lack of Clarity normally have in their kitchen
ing the list of ingredients used Innovation group, about 77% There is currently no legal cupboards. Furthermore, most
in a food product, consumers of Europeans surveyed prefer definition for what constitutes consumers will consider food
can make more informed deci- foods that are free from chemi- a clean label. This makes it products that have no E-num-
sions with their food choices. cal additives. In the same report, difficult to implement a clean bers in the ingredient list as a
However, for the vast major- about 61% of European re- label program and evaluate characteristic of a clean label
ity of consumers, reading food spondents preferred sustainable success and compliance for product. Additionally, consum-
labels may lead to confusion, foods and 78% would prefer such programs. However, in ers consider food products with
rather than enlightenment. more natural, chemical addi- an attempt to understand what chemical sounding ingredients
For why would their favorite tive free versions of their staple characterizes a clean label, one as not being clean label.
cookie contain ingredients such foods. Staple foods are those must take into consideration the
as butylated hydroxy anisole convenience foods purchased results from consumer studies, Retailer Push
(BHA, E320) or ammonium at least two to three (or more) food industry examples and There has also been push for
hydrogen carbonate (E503)? times a month. This includes related legislative or regulatory clean labeling from food retail-
Food technologists and bakery products, pastries and examples. ers. A good example for this is
product developers will recog- sauces, among others. As a From a consumer point of the list of acceptable and unac-
nize that these ingredients help consequence of past experi- view, clean label implies an ceptable ingredients that Whole
extend product shelf life (E320 ences and increased awareness, understandable list of ingre- Foods market, a supermarket
is an antioxidant) and help im- consumers are now looking dients in the foods they con- chain operating in the US, is
prove product quality (E503 is for more transparent and easily sume. In most cases, consumer willing to sell in their stores.
an acidity regulator). However, understandable food product familiarity with most, if not all Whole Foods reserves their right
to refuse selling food products
that do not conform to their list
of acceptable and unacceptable
ingredients. Some unacceptable
ingredients in the list include
artificial flavors and colors, most
chemical preservatives (such as
benzoates and propionates), en-
zymes such as transglutaminase
and sweeteners such as stevia, to
name a few.
Food manufacturers have
also launched clean label prod-
ucts that consist of a short list of
ingredients. These food prod-
ucts have been reformulated
to what is now considered to
be clean label. Consider, for
example, Haagen Dazs five
ingredient ice cream launched
in 2009. The ice cream only
contains five ingredients (skim
Figure 1: Systematic Science-Based Approach for Challenges in Developing Products With Clean Labels milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks and


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natural flavoring). The Haagen study, illustrates this point. The foodstuffs instead. In addition, Technological Challenges
Dazs five ice cream evokes a colors included in the South- the EU regulation for food ad- Having considered the vari-
traditional, mom-and-pop style ampton study are Allura Red, ditives as a whole is currently ous aspects relating to clean label
ice cream made from ingredi- Ponceau, Tartrazine, Sunset being re-evaluated for safety food products from the point of
ents that consumers are familiar Yellow, Quinoline Yellow and and usage. view of the various stakeholders
with and are able to understand. Carmosine. Overall, based on the exam- involved (consumers, industry,
The required EU warning ples and cases from consumers, regulatory agencies), the food
Regulatory Involvement label states: Warning: Allura Red industry players and regula- product developer is left with
Aside from the consumer [or any of the 5 other Southampton tory agencies, it may be gener- real technological challenges
and industry push for clean label colors] may have an adverse effect alized that the simplification of and questions that need to be
products, there has also been a on the activity and attention in chil- food labels towards increased addressed. How do you clean
legislative/regulatory push. The dren. This required labeling has consumer understanding and up labels while still maintaining
EU requiring the warning label prompted the reformulation of increased product health and product organoleptic properties?
for food products containing many confectionery products to safety is not merely a trend, nor In addition, how do you clean
colorants implicated in the 2007 shift from using synthetic colors a marketing campaign. Clean up labels and still maintain the
University of Southampton to natural colors and coloring labeling is here to stay. required product safety and
stability during the lifecycle
Table 1: Some Classes of Food Additives and Key
of the food product? Which
Challenges for Developing Clean Label Products
ingredients need to be elimi-
Function Example of specific Example of alternative Some key
ingredients and processes challenges nated? Which replacements are
additive (E number range)
for clean labeling available or required? These
questions are best answered
Food Colors E100-199: Quinoline Yellow; Coloring foodstuff. Some Bulkiness;
using a science-based approach
Carmine, Cochneal; Amaranth; examples: carrot juice for Stability (light and
Curcumin; Turmeric; Patent Blue yellow; beet juice for red; heat); Availability (figure 1).
cabbage extract for blue-purple
Reformulation Models
Preservatives E200-299: Sorbates; Benzoates; Natural fermentation from lactic Process modification;
At the moment, research
Sulphites; Phenols; Nitrates; acid bacteria; Process modifica- Increased process
Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) tion for aseptic processing control questions related to clean labe-
ling fall into two categories. The
Antioxidants E300-E399: Gallates; Erythor- Natural extracts from plants: Off-flavors; Stability; first involves the understanding
and Acidity bates; Phosphates; Succunates; rosemary extracts, garlic Cross reaction in
Regulators Tocopherol (Vitamin E) extracts matrix
of food product matrices for
a more targeted reformula-
Thickeners, E400-499: Polyoxyethenes; Physically modified starches Reliability; Cost; tion strategy. A comprehensive
Stabilizers Cellulose derivatives; Fatty Process Stability reformulation model may be
and acids (and derivatives); Modified
Emulsifiers starches; Natural gums
obtained for various classes of
food systems, by understand-
ing the interaction and roles
Fruit Snacks Continue to Form a Key Growth Driver of various components of a
food product, and how these
Fruit snacks are a growth driver in the snacks components affect organolepti-
category. Unlike other snacks, which are often cal properties, product safety
purchased in an impulse, fruit snacks are more and shelf stability. The second
likely to be a planned snack, which creates op- category involves the develop-
portunities for manufacturers or quick service ment of technologies that infer
restaurants. According to Euromonitor, fruit snacks
novel functionalities to what
are among the best performing categories in
sweet and savory snacks. On a global level, the
may be regarded as clean label
snacking category showed a value sales increase ingredients. These technologies
of 4% in 2012. Fruit snacks showed value gains of move away from the chemical
just over 5%, compared to crisps 3%. modification of food ingredients
and towards modification strate-
Snacking has become more important in todays
consumers eating pattern and there are more gies and closer to traditional,
snacking occasions now than before. Think of cupboard food ingredients. In
morning snacking, afternoon snacking, food on-the-go. These are typical eating occasions for time- practice, addressing these broad
pressed but health-conscious people. Todays consumer is educated and wants good-for-you food. This research questions requires a
creates the perfect climate to launch fruit-based snacks, not only in industry, but also in foodservice: close collaborative effort. In-
think of a smoothie or home-made yogurt in a take-away format or even mini raspberry or strawberry gredient functionalities needed
cookies. The fruit snacking trend also created opportunities for kids; think of fruit crisps and the squeez- for reformulating food products
able fruit pouches launched during the past years. Dirafrost reports growth in sales volumes for fruits
towards a clean label must be
for yogurt such as blueberry, forest fruits, pineapple, pear and passion fruit, especially when it comes
to fruit puree. The company presents these flavors as a good guideline to try some healthy snacks at
met on one hand. On the other,
the counter e.g. in quick service restaurants or even a take-away breakfast snack at the hotel buffet. the development of clean label
ingredients requires that the


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functionality specifications are a defined matrix that forms an the initial properties of the sensory or physical property.
identified first this informa- integral part in understanding model food system provides This information is in turn
tion may only be obtained from the functionalities of specific information of the ingredient ef- crucial for the development of
reformulation studies. food ingredients. After a model fects on matrix properties. This clean label ingredients.
food system is identified, a becomes the first cycle in the
Clean Label Strategies strategy and or a technological iterative process of reformula- Ingredient Modification:
Reformulation: Reformula- intervention, is then applied. tion. The cycle ends when the Several classes of food ingredi-
tion is the starting point towards This stage may either entail desired properties are obtained. ents provide both opportunities
the development of a clean la- elimination (or replacement) The main advantage of working and challenges for the develop-
bel product. At TNO, the proc- of an ingredient or process in model food systems is the sys- ment towards ingredients that
ess of reformulation begins with modification. In both cases, the tematic definition of ingredient may be used for clean label
the benchmarking of products model food system is altered in a functionality within a given ma- products (see table 1).
into model food systems (figure controlled manner. Pinpointing trix. In reformulation, product Currently, the main strategy
2). This requires knowledge of the changes in the model food understanding is a crucial asset. for developing ingredients that
the constituents of the product system is a crucial step at this The approach using model food may be used for clean label
matrix, their interaction and in- point. In most cases, changes systems also provides informa- products is the move away
fluence on organoleptic proper- in the physical properties of tion for the specific ingredi- from chemical modification.
ties and product processability. the food systems are measured. ent functionality requirements For example, many product
Model food systems provide Benchmarking changes against given a matrix against a desired developers are replacing chemi-
cally modified starches (such
Figure 2: TNOs Reformulation Strategy as a Starting Point for Developing Clean Label Products as acetylated, propylated, and
oxidized starches, to name a
few examples) with physically
modified starches. Physical
modification of starches in-
cludes the pre-gelatinization
and heat-treatment of starch.
Pre-gelatinized starches are
pre-cooked starches, making
them cold swelling. The heat-
treatment of starches on the
other hand include annealing
treatments and heat-moisture
processes result in changes in
the starch granular structure,
and/or loss of birefringence
without gelatinization.
Modified starches are used
in the food industry to meet
the functionality requirements
for products and processes. For
example, a cold swelling starch
may be needed for instant pud-
Clean Label Potential for Cereal and Dried Fruit Derived Ingredients dings. On the other hand, a
thermo-stable, shear resistant
starch may be required so that
Meurens Naturals Natu range offers a wide vari- product texture is maintained at
ety of natural ingredients from cereals and dried
acceptable levels during indus-
fruits (sweeteners, colors, tastes, viscosity, binding
agent) for all agri-food sectors (bakery products,
trial processing operations. This
confectionery, soft drinks, vegetable drinks & des- is needed when products such
serts, fruit preparations, sauces, baby food, gluten as soups and sauces are pumped
free products, dietetics etc.). Using a clean and through heat exchangers during
natural production process (no refining), Meurens pasteurization and during prod-
Natural preserves the benefits of the raw materials uct packaging.
(minerals, taste & color) used to the maximum. By employing fractiona-
The company positions itself on a clean label tion and blending strategies,
platform thanks to a non-refining process (natural)
chemical modification may
and the use of flour (instead of only starch as in
conventional glucose industry). For example: rice syrup instead of glucose syrup or sugar. The Natu also be avoided. This strategy
range consists of: rice syrup, oat syrup, dates syrup, figs syrup, prunes syrup, dates puree, cereal puree has been used for the replace-
and many tailor-made ingredients from cereals and dried fruits. ment of chemically modified
fats such as hydrogenated and


cleanlabel.indd 14 16-4-2013 15:44:59

palm oil blends. During frac- Ingredient Elimination the production of sourdough bel, because of their chemi-
tionation, various proportions of There are however strategies bread. In addition, dough con- cal nature. Antioxidants such
saturated and unsaturated fatty that result in the elimination of ditioners such diacetyl tartaric as butylated hydroxyanisole
acids from palm oil are mixed ingredients altogether. This is acid esters of mono- and diglyc- (BHA), butlyated hydroxytolu-
together or with other vegeta- made possible by the modifica- erides (DATEM) and stearoyl ene (BHT), calcium propionates
ble oils, to obtain the required tion of processing operations. lactylates are currently being and benzoic acids are commonly
functionalities. The physical A typical example for this is the replaced with enzyme systems, found in many processed food
properties of the blended palm elimination of anti-fungal and most notably lipases and organic products.
oil may be controlled by varying rope inhibitors such as propi- compounds such as ascorbic acid They are used in very little
the levels and proportions of onates, which are used in the (vitamin C), as a cleaner and quantities, are inexpensive and
the various types of fatty acids. production of bread. Natural simpler way to achieve better easily applied in various food
This results in a wide variety of anti-fungal compounds are pro- handling for dough systems. matrices. Currently, there is an
physical properties pertaining duced from the controlled lactic In general, most food pre- ongoing need to identify natu-
to stability, melting properties acid fermentation similar to the servatives and stabilizers are rally derived preservatives that
and spreadability, among others. manufacturing process used for perceived as non-clean la- may have the same properties.
The development of high-
throughput screening of bioac-
tive compounds that may be
obtained from plant extracts, is a
growing field of research. EFSA
recently approved rosemary ex-
tract as an antioxidant that may
be used as a preservative for a
number of applications such as
beverages, sauces, confections
and baked goods.
The approval of rosemary
extract for food use may sig-
nal the new classes of food
ingredients and additives of
the future. In addition to the
EFSA approval of rosemary
extract, the EU funded project
NOCHEMFOOD is aimed at
identifying and benchmarking
plant extracts and their mixtures
that may replace chemical food
preservatives used in the meat
industry. The main preservative
used in processed and cured
meat products are nitrites and
Presently, TNO is at the
center of the technology push
and science pull, surrounding
the development of clean label
ingredients and end-products.
The new knowledge needed
to answer the real technological
challenges in clean label is best
achieved through a collaborative
approach. TNO invites vari-
ous food industry stakeholders
for a joint program to clean up
the ingredient labels of food
Jerome Diaz is a Scientist at TNO
Functional Ingredients (jerome.
diaz@tno.nl). The second part of the
series on clean labeling (to appear in
June, 2013), will discuss case studies.


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