Sponsored by Ken’s Foodservice
As an increasing number of Americans strive to educate themselves about the foods they consume, restaurateurs, manufacturers and retailers are increasingly turning to “clean labels” that feature a simpler ingredient list — one which provides consumers with options they feel good about because they understand what is contained in the product they're purchasing.
In addition to seeking information about the ingredients they consume, customers are urging restaurateurs and suppliers to provide options that won’t compromise any of the flavor or variety today's guests crave.
The concerns raised by this new generation of food-conscious customers cover a wide spectrum of issues — including an ever-sharpening focus on the addition of artificial flavors or preservatives, “processed” or “chemical-sounding” ingredients, as well as the notion that “natural” equates with “healthful” or “wholesome.”
Foodservice operators together with leading brands like Ken's Foods are working to address many of those concerns. Ken’s, for example, has introduced its Essentials line of dressings — a clean-label product that offers the same great flavor consumers are familiar with, that contain NO artificial flavors, preservatives or high fructose corn syrup.
Avoiding artificial ingredients
“Consumers believe some ingredients — for example, artificial colors — aren’t good for them,” says Amy Myrdal Miller, founder and president of Farmer's Daughter Consulting. “They demanded changes from consumer packaged goods companies, and then turned their attention to restaurants. They want to know what’s in their food, and they want assurances that what they are getting is healthy and 'real.'”
In an effort to address these issues, operators like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Panera and others have been responding to consumer pressure and changing menu formulations, says Myrdal Miller. “McDonald’s, for example, removed margarine from its Egg McMuffin and is now using butter instead. The consumer perception was that margarine was a 'fake' ingredient, and butter is real.”
Lexicon of labels
Nevertheless, no single “natural” term has yet to emerge as the one Americans most associate with health, says research firm Technomic in its Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report. Rather, a host of terms are finding their way on to menus and the growing lexicon of labels. For example, the terms “preservative-free” and “Having no artificial sweeteners” are perceived as being “slightly healthy” and “much more healthy” by 75 percent of individuals polled. Other terms perceived as being “slightly healthy” and “much more healthy” in the study include “Natural,” 74 percent; “Unprocessed,” 73 percent; “Antibiotic-free or hormone-free,” 72 percent; “Organic,” 71 percent; “Clean,” 68 percent; “GMO-free,” 65 percent; “Grass-fed,” 64 percent; and “Real,” 58 percent.
One thing is apparent, though: Americans are unwilling to sacrifice flavor in their search for clean-label ingredients. “Consumers want 'cleaner menus,' but they want to enjoy the dining experience,” Myrdal Miller says. “Every major foodservice brand needs to ensure that the modified or new ingredient provides parity or greater enjoyment of the menu item.”
“A new way of eating”
While foodservice operators strive to meet these customer demands for more nutritious fare and clean-label items, brands like Ken's Foods have innovated solutions to help them address the rapidly changing environment. At Ken's, the company's research & development and culinary teams are continuously working to create applications for existing flavors while regularly developing new dressings and sauces that enable foodservice operators to expand their menus and remain on the cutting edge of the latest food trends. They believe flavor is No. 1, with everything else running a distant second.
A prime example of this is the Ken’s Essentials line, which provides consumers with a clean-label option they’ll not only feel good about, but also enjoy eating. It features a wide variety of flavors, including Creamy Italian, Honey Mustard, Country French with Orange Blossom Honey, Lite Balsamic with Olive Oil Vinaigrette, Creamy Caesar, Thousand Island, Blue Cheese, and Greek and Lemon Vinaigrettes. In addition, all flavors are available in gallon containers as well as pourable bottles, with easy-to-read labels that help provide customers with the information they’re looking for — making it a dual product solution for both customers and foodservice operators.
As the clean-label trend continues to unfold, Spiegel observes “There's no turning back.” “Clean-label awareness is growing with the mainstream population. Even if the average consumer does not have a deep understanding of the benefits, it just makes them feel good about their choices.”
Foodservice operators will therefore likely continue to be pressed to provide more of these clean-label options. In thinking about how to best stay ahead of customer interests and demands, consider brands like Ken’s Foods to find alternative solutions that offer the range of flavors, packaging and versatility you may be looking for!