When I was a teenager, my dad would say, son “clean up your act.” Basically, he was telling me to get the crap out of my life that was dragging me down. And, today, for food brands, I would say the same thing…you need to “clean up your act.”
The bottom line is that we live in a new era of food. Consumers simply expect more from the food brands they buy. The bar is higher than it was 10-15 years ago. Even “clean label” has been taken to an entirely new level; real ingredients, nutrition, functional benefits, claims, certifications, sustainability, and on and on.
Many legacy and time-tested brands still haven’t gotten the message—or they just have their heads in the sand. And, look, I get it, changing formulations and processes is time-consuming, costly, and risky. Some of these brands haven’t changed for decades. It can impact your margins and potentially alienate loyalists who may or may not be health-conscious. And, to top it off, clean foods are coming down in price because they are becoming mainstream—which means the era of extreme premium prices is over.
Much like the plant-based movement, this isn’t going away. Consumers are educated about ingredients and more engaged than ever with what they and their families are eating; 60% of US consumers are familiar with Clean Label, 44% say Clean Label is important to them and 22% of US consumers are buying more free-from foods than they did a year ago. 22%! Think about that. And it’s not slowing.
Clean eating has moved far beyond the ingredient list. Yes—simple, familiar, and fewer ingredients are still very important to consumers. But, claims and certifications have become just as important…No Additives or Preservatives, No Added Sugar, Non-GMO, Gluten-Free, USDA Organic, and many, many more. New claims are coming to market every day and they are important to consumers.
When developing new products or adjusting existing products, you have to consider what consumers are looking for and what will compel them to buy your brand over another. I suggest considering these pillars in your process; Nutrition, Health & Wellness, Simple Familiar Ingredients, Functionality, Food Safety, Sustainability, Social Impact, Transparency, and of course this should be the standard for all food…Taste.
Consumers expect more—that’s a fact. They are more educated about what to look for and intentional about what they want for their nutrition and health. They are setting new standards that dramatically impact whether or not they will purchase or continue to purchase your brand.
This is not bad news for your brand and should not be looked at as a burden or obstacle. It’s about raising your bar, as a brand, to higher standards and truly being proud of the products you have in market.