Coming clean: 5 tips for developing clean label food and beverages

The clean label trend is here to stay, with the market growing from $34.2 billion to $47.1 billion in the past five years alone.1 But what is clean label, and how can brands formulate clean label products that consumers actually want? Definitions vary around the globe, but the most common understanding of clean label is products that are simple and not overly processed (using words that consumers easily understand). Consumers want to know what ingredients and processes go into their food, and they’re looking for products created with easy-to-understand ingredients. Because of this, brands need to meet the growing demand for products that are minimally processed.


Formulating clean label products brings with it a range of challenges at every stage, from sourcing to aligning with the needs of your consumers. But – with a combination of consumer research, a comprehensive ingredients portfolio and strong product application expertise – ofi can help. Read on to discover five ways you can make your next clean label innovation real, without compromising on taste, functionality or aesthetic.


Business Wire. Global clean label ingredients market – growth, trends and forecast (2017-2022). [Report]. 2017.

1. Making clean label ingredients multitask

One of the key elements of clean label is a short ingredients list. Consumers want to understand everything they read on the label, and long lists give the impression of a highly processed product. This means brands need to make their ingredients go further, choosing options which offer multiple functionalities in one to keep labels short. Here, ingredients that can be used as replacements for multiple artificial additives play a big role. Cocoa, nut, or spices ingredients can provide both color and flavor, removing the need for artificial additives. In Horchata drink powder premixes for instance, ground spices could replace the artificial vanilla or cinnamon flavorings commonly used to give drinks a richer taste profile, while nut flours can be added instead of industrial thickeners like Xanthan Gum for similar functionality with a plant-based protein boost.


Did you know that paprika extract was the second-most popular natural colorant used in product launches in 2020?It’s great for adding a rich red color, whereas turmeric introduces a pop of yellow. Dairy products also offer a range of clean label benefits. The protein content in dairy offers excellent water binding, whipping and gelation properties, as well as emulsion, caramelization and color.


Natural Colors Innovation. Food Ingredients First. [Report]. 2021.

2. Don’t forget the flavor

Sometimes, the easiest way to reduce ingredients lists – and the number of artificial additives – is by cutting down on added flavors. But this can run the risk of creating bland food and unhappy consumers. The full spectrum of real flavorings opens up massive opportunities to create delicious, products across sweet and savory applications. Flavors from spices like paprika, chile, and cinnamon can shorten ingredients lists while adding flavor and being instantly recognizable to consumers.


What’s more, real ingredients align with current food trends. Exotic flavors from around the world are particularly popular and can be replicated at scale using authentic ingredients rather than synthetic flavor enhancers. If you’re looking to create a clean label product that packs a flavor punch, ofi’s spice blends could help. Plus, we have extensive experience in tailored spice blend creation, so get in touch to find out how our experts can help you maximize flavor in your next clean label creation.


When it comes to desserts and sweet treats, rich and indulgent ‘brown’ flavors are popular at the moment.This is the perfect space for delicious ingredients like coffee and cocoa to shine, with the opportunity to add the flavors that consumers love without artificial additives.


Combining these clean label ingredients can create even more exciting taste experiences, such as chocolate chai swirl made with cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, and turmeric. Plus, milk powders can be used as a flavor alternative for applications where consumers expect a creamy flavor profile.


2021 Flavor trends for food and beverage. Nutritional Outlook [report] 2021.

3. Functional, not artificial

Artificial additives often fulfill a functional purpose, like increasing shelf life or stability. These are required to make a product not only fit for surviving longer supply chains, but also appealing to consumers. But these qualities are commonly provided by chemicals or other ingredients that consumers won’t recognize. Fortunately, there’s a clean label solution – cocoa butter. It’s a plant-based fat that can replace non-clean label fats in confectionery and baked goods.


4. Have your (chocolate) cake and eat it

No matter how hard you try, some clean label ingredients just don’t have the same taste, texture or color as the traditional ingredients. Take cocoa powder, used in several applications we all know and love. Cocoa powders with vibrant color and rich flavor are generally ‘Dutched’ (also known as alkalized) – or processed using an alkalizing agent like potassium or sodium. Although a very common practice, consumers may find the word “alkalized” a bit scary and look for clean label options. In the past, clean label cocoa (which hasn’t been through this process) didn’t offer the same level of color or flavor. However, ingredient manufacturers, like ofi, have been working to solve this challenge.


ofi invests heavily in research dedicated to developing high-quality, clean-label ingredient options that consumers love. As an example, our deZaan TrueDark cocoa powder goes through a proprietary process to achieve the desirable dark color and rich flavor typical of Dutched products, without the need for alkali. This solution for indulgent, clean label chocolate and confectionery innovations means you can have your chocolate cake and eat it, too!

5. Clean label collaboration

No man is an island, and the same can be said for your brand. Whatever you create, chances are you’ll have suppliers and partners to help you get there. And when it comes to clean label innovation, it’s crucial that partners are aligned with your goals. As we’ve discussed, new product development (NPD) and reformulation in the clean label space requires careful planning right from the sourcing stage, through to processing and packing.


This is especially crucial for brands working with dairy ingredients. Liquid milk can be challenging to supply across long distances, and many countries do not have the infrastructure required to stabilize this fresh ingredient. Milk solids provide a stable, clean label alternative that can be transported globally – enabling greater access to milk’s strong nutritional profile. Sourcing milk solids also offers greater flexibility to deliver clean label alternatives by selectively replacing milk fats with alternatives such as vegetable oils, coconut oil or nut oils.


ofi is uniquely positioned in the dairy sector to offer high-quality ingredients that retain their clean label status. 100% traceable, our milk solids are available and consistent throughout the year for supply worldwide. So, if you’re looking for a partner to support your next clean label dairy product, talk to our experts to find out how ofi can help.


With consumer demand for clean label products on the rise, investing in this trend is crucial for long term growth in the food and beverage markets. However, it doesn’t have to be as daunting as it seems. Starting with simple clean label ingredient swaps can help make the transition more manageable – and ofi’s team of innovation and ingredients experts has the experience and knowledge to help you along the way. Whatever your next clean label innovation may be, find out how we can help you make it real.