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Food labels have never been more important. Not only will there soon be a place where consumers can read about the environmental impact of the product, but recent consumer research reveals that shoppers are paying more attention to ingredient lists. Almost two-thirds of respondents to a survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) said they try to find products made with ‘clean ingredients’.
Earlier this year, research by FMCG Gurus found that the appeal of ‘clean label’ claims were growing, with consumers proactively seeking out products they associate with being healthier and of better quality. But as Will Cowling, marketing manager, pointed out at the time, this term is not very well known among consumers. The group’s research found that fewer than four in 10 had heard of the phrase clean label.
The IFIC’s research, meanwhile, found that most consumers defined clean label products as not artificial or synthetic, followed by organic, fresh, something they recognise as nutritious and natural.
While the phrase clean label can have many meanings to consumers, the desire for transparency in the food chain is at the heart of the growing demand for products made with natural, traceable ingredients. The rising interest in the environmental impact of food is also pushing demand for traceable ingredients higher.
Food businesses are beginning to act on this demand. For instance, players in the coffee industry are responding to calls for greater transparency around the origins of their beans by teaming up with tech companies.
Scientific traceability company Oritain has joined forces with importer and distributor Mercanta, The Coffee Hunters, to establish a global coffee database in order to add what it calls a “forensic” level of traceability to the world’s coffee. Elsewhere, the Dutch retail giant HEMA said it will begin using the platform Farmer Connect to create greater transparency around its coffee range using blockchain technology, which is better known for underpinning cryptocurrency technology.
These initiatives aren’t only taking place abroad, however. Here in the UK, many consumers are looking to seek out locally made or grown products with strong ethical credentials, and the retailers and brands that can provide transparency around these processes will be able to cater to this demand. Businesses like The Ethical Butcher provide QR codes on the meat they sell, which consumers can scan to get the story of the farm the meat came from and the people involved in its production.
From blockchain technology to simple stories about the origins of a product, there are a number of ways that producers and retailers can improve transparency around the food and drink they sell. These new avenues also create opportunities to build loyalty and boost innovation.
“Consumer demand for traceability across the supply chain offers opportunities to differentiate products, improve transparency and freshness, and safeguard brand provenance,” a report by KPMG Australia states. “Traceability and transparency in the food industry are the foundations to building consumer trust and the Covid-19 virus impact on trade routes and supply chains has accentuated this even more.”
With consumers increasingly looking for information about how their food is produced, fine food independents are in a strong position to benefit from the demand for transparency and traceability, thanks to their short supply chains and their relationships with local producers.