The future of clean label series: Consumer trends

March 22, 2019 | Clean and simple ingredients

What will the clean label movement look like in the future? Our expert panel shares their thoughts.

Demand for simple, natural and clean label products is showing no signs of slowing, but it is evolving. What will consumers be looking for in the future and how will this influence product development? We asked a group of industry experts to give their view of what the future might hold.

Plain and simple

Consumers will seek an altogether simpler interaction with food. Weariness and distrust of marketing-led messaging will drive a reaction against information overload and an expectation of total transparency.

  • Labels will be quieter, with less product ‘story’ and a strong focus on clear communication.
  • Consumer scepticism around excessive use of ‘natural’ as a positioning statement will lead to greater emphasis on authenticity.

Social change

Greater connectivity through social media will enhance consumer knowledge around issues such as farming, manufacturing and production methods.

  • Stringent changes to EU regulations on organic products are currently in progress. These were published in May 2018 and will apply from January 2021. Amid these changes, there will be an emergence of socially motivated trends.
  • Sustainability, seasonal and local will overtake organic to become consumer drivers of choice. This may influence a major change in manufacturing practice where smaller batch processing on a seasonal basis becomes the norm.
  • Social media will enhance consumer knowledge around issues such as farming, manufacturing and production methods.

Perfectly imperfect

Consumers will reach peak Instagram exposure and the tide will turn against the virtual world of filters and perfect presentation.

  • Millennials will drive a move away from Instagrammed food and replace it with nostalgia for food that looks homemade.
  • While less-than-perfect products will become increasingly accepted, this won’t be at the expense of modern values. Convenience, transparency and the use of known ingredients, along with taste, nutrition and texture, will remain central to consumer acceptance.

Tapping into technology

Increasingly present in our everyday lives, technology will be used to add a new dimension to consumer choice and how they select food.

  • ‘Webrooming’, or accessing product data on the spot via. mobile technology, empowers consumers to compare similar brands and even peer reviews to inform their purchasing decisions. This will spur manufacturers into boosting transparency and trust by offering more detailed and accessible information on products and ingredients.
  • Personalised nutrition will be taken to the next level with diagnostic advances leading to mainstream DNA profiling. This will enable consumers to identify their own personal lifestyle triggers and select foods which fit this profile.

The future of clean label trends

Clean label issues will continue to evolve in line with consumer behaviour and trends. Manufacturers that stay connected, listen to and adapt their products to these changes stand the highest chance of surviving, growing and remaining competitive in the food and beverages marketplace.