Clean label trend is evolving - consumers still willing to pay a price premium

The clean label trend is not new, but what does it actually mean for consumers? While there is no official definition of it, according to the Institute for Food Technologists, a clean label means making a product using as few ingredients as possible and making sure those ingredients are items that consumers recognize and regard as wholesome. [1]

Today, clean label means much more than a short list of food ingredients; it has relevance not only to health, but also to transparency.

Being transparent means being open and honest about the whole food supply chain and all the ingredients used in the products. This is mainly due to the increasing interest in sustainability issues: 67 % of global consumers stating that they care more about ingredient sourcing than they did a year ago, and 74% expect companies to be transparent about their raw material sources. [2]

What does clean label mean?

  • Removal of undesirable or unhealthy additives.
  • Emphasis on transparency and information regarding ingredients and their sourcing.
  • Demand for greater environmental responsibility.

Source: Innova, Global Trends in Clean Label 2023.

For consumers, natural means healthy and better-for-you.

However, the term "clean label" itself is unfamiliar to many consumers. According to FMCG Gurus global report [3], 41% of consumers have heard of the phrase in relation to food and drinks. While people may not fully understand the term, they often associate it with natural - no additives/ no preservatives - and healthy.

Products with fewer ingredients, or foods with better nutritional value are believed to qualify as clean label.

Despite the ambiguity surrounding the term, 78% of consumers find it appealing once they are provided with a definition. Hence, the market is witnessing a rise in products claiming to be made from "only three ingredients."

It's important to note that not all additives need to be removed from clean label products. The focus is on providing consumers with transparent and clear information, including the sources of such additives. Many consumers are concerned about technical or synthetic-sounding food ingredients, such as e numbers, even if some of them are naturally occurring.

For today’s shoppers, transparency from brands and manufacturers—in the form of natural, simple, and clear ingredients lists—is vital.

Clean label also implies greener, fewer, and healthier products.

The clean label trend has grown in parallel with consumers' distaste for artificial ingredients. 1 in 3 global consumers consider natural ingredients to be one of the most important aspects of healthy food and beverages, second only to freshness [5] . According to Tate & Lyle Research, 94% of global consumers read product labels and prefer drinks without artificial ingredients.

As consumers may not have a clear idea of what really is artificial or unnatural, they seek products made with real, pure, and familiar ingredients. Clean labeling is often seen as a guarantee of good quality and healthiness.

Consumers' interest in clean and healthy eating has also led them to avoid allergens and ingredients associated with intolerances, but for lifestyle reasons rather than medical ones. This has resulted in an increase in "free from" claims on packaging, as they are perceived as a healthier and cleaner food choice. This is what Mintel calls as a new spin on the clean label trend. [6]

Consumers willing to pay extra

According to Innova's Health and Nutrition Survey (2022), around 2 in 3 consumers say that clean label claims influence their purchasing decisions. The study also found that almost half of global consumers would be willing to pay more for clean labels, with Asians being even more likely to pay extra.

But the most interesting finding, especially in this challenging economic climate, comes from Ingredion’s recent study. According to it, despite inflation, 78 % of global consumers are ready to pay extra for clean label (= natural, organic or non-artificial ingredients). [7]

However, it is good to keep in mind that the most essential thing is to communicate the key benefits of the product clearly and comprehensibly. That is the only way to make it worth consumers’ money.

Discover Valio’s clean label solutions today

We can help you tailor your products to meet the demand for clean label foods by leveraging these consumer insights on clean labels.

Get in touch to learn more about the business opportunities in clean label products.

Dennis van der Veer

Head of Customer DevelopmentFocuses on assisting customers in marketing innovative food solutions

First name *

Last name *

Email *

Company *

Country *


  1. New Food 2023.
  2. Innova, Global Trends in Clean Label 2023.
  3. FMCG Gurus: The importance of clean label 2023.
  4. Tate & Lyle 2022.
  5. Innova Lifestyle & Attitudes Survey 2022: Innova Trends Survey 2023
  6. Food Navigator Europe 2022.
  7. Ingredion: proprietary global consumer research (ATLAS 2023).