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Carissa Nath

Keeping it clean

— by Carissa Nath, AURI Meat Scientist

If given the choice of two comparable food products, one containing butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene or one made with cherry powder, which would you choose? If you picked the cherry powder, you’re like an increasing number of your fellow consumers. All three ingredients are used to help preserve food for a longer shelf-life. One just sounds a lot more appealing than the others doesn’t it?

What was once an emerging trend has quickly become an industry standard. Consumers are paying closer attention to ingredients because they want to know what’s in the food they’re feeding their families. For food companies, that means a focus on “clean” labels with simple, natural-sounding names. In some cases, that also means fewer ingredients and less processing. The primary implication of the move to cleaner labels and fewer ingredients is a belief that those products are inherently healthier.

The move toward simpler ingredients and cleaner labels cuts across many food categories including beverages, baked goods and meat products. For many consumers, if they can’t pronounce the ingredients on label, they don’t want it.

The trend toward simpler ingredients is something we at AURI have seen for quite some time. In fact, the movement toward more artisan foods that are less processed and contain simpler ingredients likely started with entrepreneurial businesses looking to set themselves apart from their larger competitors. Having fewer, more natural ingredients helped them fill a niche that has since grown to mainstream.

Consumer demand is driving the trend. As people become more health conscious, they check the label for statements like “all natural” or “gluten-free.” Whether for a food sensitivity or allergy, or just because they want to make a change in their diet, people are checking the ingredients to be sure they like what they see.

Formulating recipes with an emphasis on natural ingredients does present some challenges. Ingredients are added to most products because they serve a functional purpose. In many cases, those hard-to-pronounce components are in there because they help preserve food products for longer shelf-life or they may be in the recipe to add color, flavor or serve as a binding agent. They might be used to add sweetness or saltiness to recipes. In some cases they’re part of the recipe for food safety reasons, which means finding more natural ingredients that do the same things become even more challenging. Take those ingredients out and taste, texture and appearance of food products can be drastically changed. That may not be an issue when developing new food products, but trying to reformulate existing products with an existing taste and consumer expectations gets a whole lot more challenging.

Clean_LabelsFortunately, at AURI we have many years of experience helping Minnesota businesses formulate delicious food products without unnecessary ingredients. We’ve been able to help hundreds of small- to medium-sized businesses simplify their recipes and offer a cleaner label.

By substituting more easily recognized products like fruit and vegetable extracts for synthetic ingredients, we can help Minnesota businesses capitalize on the wholesome food trend. It takes a lot of science to help formulate food products that don’t sound that way.