Issue 41

Natural sets an unwritten standard

Despite lacking an official definition, naturalness is in widespread demand

When is a food product a natural food product?  With no legal definition to go by, the debate about what ‘natural’ really means has continued during 2013, primarily led by Europe and the US. But, although a common definition has yet to be found, there is one thing everyone can agree on: that ‘naturalness’ has turned into one of the biggest trends in the mainstream food business, closely linked to health and wellness.

Many natural labels
Declarations of naturalness on product labels vary widely from ‘free from artificial colourings, preservatives and additives’ to ‘100% natural’. In some food segments and markets, a natural positioning is close to becoming an unwritten standard.  It’s a development that reflects a general consumer tendency where personal beliefs influence purchasing decisions far more than regulatory terminology. 

Free-from preference
In a survey conducted by the Kampffmeyer Food Innovation Group earlier this year, 77% of the European participants claimed they prefer foods to be free from chemical additives. E-numbers and other unfamiliar ingredients with an unknown function are viewed with suspicion among label-conscious consumers who value transparency and sustainability.  The challenge for product developers, of course, is that these additives often play a vital role in assuring appeal and shelf-life quality – aspects where consumers are notoriously unwilling to compromise.

Clean-label proteins
This is an area of focus for us at Arla Foods Ingredients, where we work with customers on the development of clean-label solutions that meet expectations for naturalness, sensory attributes and shelf life. Our Nutrilac® Natural Improvers  for bakery are one example. Some of our latest Nutrilac® proteins can also be used in dairy applications as an alternative to traditional stabilisers.