COVID-19 Brings Clean Label Food Protection into Focus

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Consumers worried about food waste want clean label products with long shelf lives. These 5 solutions can help


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Food waste is a growing concern amongst consumers. Reports suggest one-third of all food produced globally is lost or goes to waste, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States, and a recent study published in PLOS One estimates around 527 kilocalories are wasted per day per person. According to FMCG Gurus, with the outbreak of COVID-19, 65% of global consumers set out to reduce their own food waste contributions. This was driven by fears of scarcity, a recessionary mindset and a growing awareness of food spoilage after the initial stockpiling phase.

Still, many people are finding their food and beverage values and actual choices are sometimes at odds. Although a growing number of consumers pay increased attention to product labels—including avoiding artificial ingredients such as those commonly used to extend shelf life—right now they’re turning to shelf stable comfort foods to reduce trips and deliver a sense of indulgence.

Herein lies the challenge: How can food and beverage manufacturers and foodservice operators satisfy the consumer demand for products that are both clean label and long lasting? Our experts reveal why clean label food protection will take on an even greater role in the post-COVID-19 world, from the growing market size to the innovative range of suitable solutions available to reduce food waste and drive sales.

The growing demand for clean labels without sacrificing shelf life

Research conducted by Kerry confirms there is a strong consumer desire for the removal of artificial ingredients in food and beverages. However, the high demand for natural foods may be increasing food waste, which is one of the top global sustainability problems. It’s a complex challenge, as food needs to be protected from taste degradation and kept stable with consumer-friendly alternatives that ensure safety and minimise food waste. The market for consumer-friendly shelf life solutions is estimated at more than US$1 billion globally, and it is growing at twice the pace of the artificial preservatives market.

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Clean label food protection solutions

Keeping food safe over its shelf life is multifaceted. It involves protecting from spoilage and pathogens and shielding from taste degradation while delivering on a tasty, nutritious, appealing and enjoyable product. Although maintaining a consumer friendly label can be a challenge, there are natural ways to keep food fresh, safe and appealing using food cupboard solutions. Here are some examples of ingredients that can extend shelf life while keeping foods delicious and nutritious and labels clean.

Vinegar: Vinegar-based antimicrobials can kill microbes and stall food spoilage. Products like buffered vinegar add flavour and are recognized for their ability to protect from foodborne pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes. Vinegar is a familiar ingredient and the concept of pickling with vinegar may already be familiar to many consumers.

Citrus Fruits: Advanced citrus extract technologies can harness the power of bioflavonoids and polyphenols to maintain flavour and quality over shelf life. Many consumers learned at an early age to put lemon juice on sliced fruit to prevent it from browning, so the natural shelf life properties of citrus fruits may already be known.

Enzymes: Enzymes such as specific types of amylolytic enzymes work by selectively acting on starch granules after gelatinization and can extend the shelf life of baked goods without the need for additives. Enzymes fall in line with the consumer expectation of clean label and also provide product enhancement, process optimization and sustainability benefits.

Celery: Fermented celery is the basis for popular cure alternatives in processed meats, replacing the functionality of ingredients such as sodium nitrite in traditionally cured meats.

Fermented Ingredients: Fermentation is a natural process. One of the outputs of the fermentation of common ingredients such as dairy, wheat or other sugar sources is naturally-derived organic acids which have a beneficial impact on flavour and shelf life. Fermented foods are rising in popularity and consumers around the world are becoming more familiar with the value of fermented ingredients.

To learn more about clean label food protection, including consumer insights and clean label solutions, contact Kerry.

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