The big label clean-up causes problems for manufacturers

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Leatherhead food international Leatherhead Label Lfi

The big label clean-up causes problems for manufacturers
Demands from retailers to reduce salt, fat and sugar in products without compromising their 'clean label' status have left manufacturers stuck...

Demands from retailers to reduce salt, fat and sugar in products without compromising their 'clean label' status have left manufacturers stuck between a rock and a hard place, product developers have claimed.

While some retailers had developed additive-free ranges such as M&S's Cook!, the functional qualities of fat were difficult to replicate in some products without using additives, delegates at a conference on additives held at Leatherhead Food International (LFI) last month were told.

However, growing numbers of additives were now on retailers' banned lists in a bid to keep labels free of e-numbers and other 'nasties'.

One delegate, who asked not to be named, said: "It's a trade off. If you remove fat, you lose viscosity, texture, creaminess, freeze/thaw stability and shelf-life. You have to find replacements that will also perform these functions, and for some low-fat products, you can't really do that without using additives."

The problem had been further compounded by a lack of consistency between retailers over the precise definition of the terms, 'clean label' and 'store cupboard ingredients', he added. "Gelatine, for example, is arguably a store cupboard ingredient, but it has fallen out of favour with some retailers owing to bad press, and they don't want manufacturers to use it"

Meanwhile, other companies were now avoiding certain hydrocolloids (thickening and gelling agents) which, despite coming from natural sources in many cases, were listed as e-numbers, and as such, were felt to be unattractive to consumers, he said.

"We really need a common approach to what is clean, and what is acceptable to consumers."

Other ingredients were also becoming problematic from a labelling perspective following the introduction of new allergen labelling legislation last November, he added. "You can use wheat flour as a fat replacer, but you have to list it as an allergen now."

Recent research by LFI confirmed "high levels of consumer ignorance about additives", said senior analyst Nicole Patterson. "Consumer knowledge about additives in general is very limited, with many consumers believing for example that diet drinks are lower in additives than regular drinks."

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