How and why food + beverage and beauty consumers are migrating to clean label living

By Sara Sprenger

6 min read

October 27, 2021

Today, more consumers buy products for themselves and their families with health and wellness in mind than ever before. It can range from adhering to personal values or being more conscious of what they put in and on their body. With all this, experts project the health and wellness segment to accelerate to $203 billion in sales by 2023. 

Opportunities to help shoppers find the products they want based on the attributes they’re scanning and searching for aren’t only for big brands or niche health stores anymore. For small CPG brands looking to get a piece of that billion-dollar pie, focusing on “clean-label” attributes and claiming them is pivotal. So, to help you ensure you make the right claims, let’s take a look at what “clean label” is and how you can use the most accurate data to understand what your consumer wants. 

Data pulled from NielsenIQ’s 2021 Harnessing Total Wellness to Grow Revenue and Byzzer NielsenIQ Total Wellness product insights reports.

What is clean label?

“Clean label” is a consumer term used to describe products in food, beverage, cosmetics, and other industries. There is no certification of “clean-label” handed down by a governing body, but brands can claim products if they use as few ingredients that consumers consider “wholesome” or “natural.” That means removing things that used to be commonplace like artificial colors, preservatives, sulfates, aluminum, parabens, and more from the product itself.  

As noted, two popular sectors seeing more “clean-label” attributes are food and beverage and beauty. Now, how does “clean label” differ when it comes to food and beverage products versus beauty products? Take a look.

Clean label for food + beverage

To protect their family’s health, buyers are shopping for products with specific ingredients (or lack of) and functional benefits, especially when it comes to what they, their families, and even their pets, eat and drink Clean label attributes here include examples like free from “added sugar,” “artificial colors,” “artificial flavors,” “artificial ingredients,” “artificial preservatives,” and “GMO presence” and they represent strong opportunities.

An example of a specific ingredient with various clean or health and wellness attributes picking up steam because of its functional benefits for low-carbohydrate and keto lifestyles is erythritol. Erythritol is a non-GMO zero-calorie sugar alcohol without artificial preservatives that does not affect blood sugar levels. In the cereal & granola category, there is a $15.7 million opportunity for small CPG brands to make clean label or ketogenic claims such as this. And it’s not just erythritol rising in popularity in this category.

Clean label for beauty

If you’re a beauty CPG brand looking to innovate your products and hop on the “clean-label” train, you’re in luck. Modern consumers know that companies created beauty and personal care products using questionable ingredients and shady practices in the past. And they did not like it, leading to more education and, in turn, “clean-label” beauty being a billion-dollar industry as of the first half of 2021. 

What exactly are “clean-label” beauty and personal products, though? They can include “aluminum-free”, “cruelty-free”, “biodegradable”, “free from sulfates”, “humane”, “oil-free”, “free from GMO presence”, and more (according to NielsenIQ data). In fact, all of these attributes are soaring in online searches and in-store purchases, showing people are clearly taking more time to find the right product and are reading labels more carefully.

Going clean

To “go clean” and adapt to modern consumers’ preferences, small CPG brands need to create a shopping experience that makes it easy for buyers to find products with clean-label attributes. One sure-fire method is to use attributes in obvious imagery on packaging or product descriptions as consumers look closely at products, whether it’s on a physical or digital store shelf. Adding relevant product attribute information, like “free from artificial ingredients” or “non-GMO” will pique shoppers’ interests. 

This could be anything from big bold lettering with the attribute name to listing out ingredients on the front of the packaging to indicate that fewer ingredients mean a more natural product. To better understand your consumer and their shifting behavior you need to make sure you’re pulling the most up-to-date data and slicing and dicing it to fit your needs.

Clean label attribute reporting with NielsenIQ Total Wellness

Fortunately, there is a way to get data-driven insights on the clean-label attributes your food, beverage, and beauty shoppers want. NielsenIQ Total Wellness delivers five reports to help you incorporate healthier, cleaner, and more conscious features and claims into your products. These five reports reflect current market trends and cover 99% of consumer queries and over 500+ individual product attributes.

With Total Wellness, you get access to data like: 

  • Which clean attributes have the highest price
  • Which brands are succeeding at clean-label merchandising
  • Which clean-label attributes are growing the fastest
  • Which regions are most interested in clean-label products 

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