We've identified key challenges and opportunities for clean label meat products in Latin America
KerryDigest Fast Facts:
- Clean label is a growing trend in Latin America, where the definition extends beyond short, easy-to-read ingredients lists and into overall product nutrition.
- Meat consumption is high in Latin America, and there’s a need for clean label meat products.
- A number of technologies on the market can help manufacturers create clean label meat products, including clean label preservatives and antimicrobial solutions such as liquid smoke.
- While formulating clean label meat products in Latin America other considerations must be taken into account, such as country-specific preferences, evolving tastes and the growing interest in sustainability and plant-based proteins.
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KerryDigest Full Scoop:
Reading product labels is already commonplace in Latin America, as consumers investigate the composition of foods and select those they consider to be healthiest. A recent clean label survey conducted by Kerry in Latin America found that 90% of respondents consider it important that products be made from clean ingredients, such as those found in nature. (In Latin America, consumers also consider clean label to be closely related to product nutrition.)
Because Latin American consumers rank among the world’s greatest consumers of meat products, it’s important that manufacturers consider clean label concerns when creating meat applications. As Director of Nutrition for Kerry Latin America, I’ve seen firsthand the biggest challenges facing the industry, as well as the most exciting opportunities for making clean label meat products in Latin America.
The Enduring Popularity of Meat in LATAM
The people of Argentina and Brazil are among the largest consumers of meat in the world. According to a 2017 survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), those countries come in third and sixth, respectively, in global meat intake, consuming 88.7 kilos of meat per person per year in Argentina and 78.6 kilos in Brazil. (The United States led meat consumption in 2017 with 98.6 kilos per person per year; Australia was second with 94.6 kilos per capita.) Although Latin American may be known as a red meat loving region, poultry meat is also popular: in Brazil, for example, about half of the meat eaten in 2017—or 39.9 kilos per person—was poultry.
Kerry research aligns with these statistics. Within Latin America, we found that meat is the third most consumed category, following dairy products and baked goods. Of the people surveyed for our report, 88% consumed meat items such as processed meats at least once a month. Amongst respondents, there was a higher frequency for men and people aged 18 to 34 years old. Young people, especially, are looking for items with easy preparation, authentic flavors and the typical freshness of home-made foods, and many meat products are available as ready-made foods or with easy preparation processes.
LATAM’s Definition of Clean Label
Conscious consumers have made clear their desire for simple, understandable food and beverage labels with fewer ingredients. This change is part of the global clean label movement, which the industry generally describes as the consumer's desire to know what is in their food, where it was developed and how it was processed. But in Latin America, clean label also encompasses nutrition.
Because clean label consumers in LATAM often believe that better ingredients and better manufacturing processes can impart positive health impacts, clean labels are, in many ways, synonymous with clear, easy-to-read labels that allow conscious decision-making about food. Our research indicates that 49% of Latin Americans who read product labels review the sodium content, which makes the information decisive at the time of purchase. The claims considered relevant by the consumers we surveyed include “low sodium”, “no additives” and “no monosodium glutamate (MSG)”, which mirrors new research on North American clean label preferences.
Ingredients for Clean Label Meat Products
In the clean label meat product space, there’s demand for technologies that allow manufacturers to make tasty offerings that are also healthier, fresher and juicier. These technologies are often delivered in the form of additives, and classified according to their function: preservatives, antioxidants, stabilizers, colorants, condiments and flavorings.
However the clean label movement is changing expectations. Because of consumer non-acceptance, product launches with artificial additives are in decline and producers want new solutions for product reformulation to meet consumer demand and deliver increasingly tasty, healthy, and dependable foods that also offer product safety.
Ingredients manufacturers may consider using include:
- Taste modulators, which can help reduce ingredients such as sodium, sugar and fat. Products such as TasteSense™ reduce sodium by up to 30%, optimising taste and nutrition while masking bitter notes.
- Antimicrobial solutions as liquid smokes, which can inhibit the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast while eliminating pathogens including listeria and salmonella.
- Fermented ingredients, which can extend the shelf life of foods or replace artificial substances. One example of these is Accel™, a solution composed of fermented celery, a vegetable naturally rich in nitrates, which is used in the preservation of cured meats such as sausages and hams without interfering with flavor.
- Vinegar, such as the powdered vinegars in the Durafresh™ line, which naturally protect against molds, yeasts and bacteria while complementing the flavors of foods.
Regional Preferences for Clean Label Meats: Similarities and Differences
More than 92% of consumers in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Colombia believe it’s important that processed foods be made with ingredients they find acceptable, such as those from natural sources, and more than 60% consider this strongly during purchasing decisions, according to our research. But there is no “one size fits all” clean label solution for the region.
Changes in consumption habits—such as the demand for easy preparation processes and the tension between the authentic flavors and novel, global cuisine—must also be considered. There are also changes related to preferences in taste, appearance and texture of products, many of which can be sorted by country. Sausage offers one example. In Chile, sausages are most often a pinkish color, similar to what’s found in the European market. But in Brazil, consumers look for sausages that have a yellowish-orange color. While creating clean label products, considerations related to cultural preferences for color, taste and texture must also be accounted for.
Clean Label Plant Proteins
A more recent challenge in the food industry is the need to appeal to vegetarians, vegans and other consumers who have reduced their meat consumption. According to a recent Mintel survey, 10% of Brazilian consumers say they are eating more plant proteins as part of a healthy lifestyle, and growth in the plant protein market can be seen across LATAM.
Manufacturers that want to appeal to clean label consumers may want to consider incorporating plant proteins into meat products, or producing meat alternative products such as meatless burgers. Just keep in mind that these new formats come with their own host of challenges and may be subject to a different set of laws of each country and the decisions of competent health agencies.