Beyond ingredients: Food processing as a tool for cleaner labels

12 Jun 2018

Ingredients come first when companies think about developing clean label foods and drinks, but certain processing technologies also should be considered part of the clean label toolbox.

Beyond ingredients: Food processing as a tool for cleaner labels

People have been processing foods for thousands of years: cooking, fermenting, drying, freezing, preserving and extracting. Yet when consumers talk about “processed food”, often they refer to products that should be eaten in moderation, if not totally avoided. For many, food processing does not fit with the concept of natural, wholesome, clean label foods.

However, the idea of clean label processing is beginning to gain ground, whether as a way to replace undesirable ingredients, or as a way to support ingredient changes.

One of the biggest challenges for clean label foods has been finding ways to keep food safe and attractive while retaining a reasonable shelf life, without using artificial preservatives. Apart from natural ingredients for preservation, some companies have looked to natural processes to extend the shelf life of their products instead, such as high pressure processing (HPP), which can extend shelf life by a factor of two to ten. It deactivates a range of common pathogens, such as salmonella, listeria and microorganisms associated with spoilage, while leaving smaller molecules like vitamins intact, and it has no impact on taste and texture. HPP is widely used for fresh juices, but can also be used for soups, sauces, ready meals, dips, meat and fish.

Similarly, the pulsed electric field (PEF) process uses a high voltage electric pulse to break the cell walls within a food product and destroy harmful microbes. Campden BRI is among the companies offering processes like HPP and PEF to ensure food safety, but such processes may provide additional benefits that fit with demand for cleaner labels. The organisation found that using PEF on potatoes to be used for chips, for example, led to sweeter tasting chips without any additional oil absorption.

Clean label processes can be used to improve products’ ingredient lists in other ways too. TNO Innovation has developed a technique using superheated steam, for example, that can modify ingredients like starch or flour to improve their functionality, and can be used to finish frying certain products to reduce total fat content.

Fermentation is another process being used to produce established ingredients in a way that consumers may consider more natural, such as sweeteners or preservatives. And certain processing technologies may give products the added bonus of a premium positioning, such as cold pressing or cold brewing for juices, vegetable oils, teas and coffees, among others.

When developing clean label products, manufacturers must contend with a rapidly evolving concept that encompasses allergens, artificial ingredients, animal welfare, responsible sourcing and sustainability. Consumer expectations have multiplied as the clean label trend has matured. Therefore, manufacturers should take a multifaceted approach that takes into account all aspects of ingredient sourcing and formulation – including processing.

Related categories

Related tags

Blogs Natural Innovation

Related news

Timeline: Impacts of COVID-19 on the global food industry

Timeline: Impacts of COVID-19 on the global food industry

25 Mar 2020

The number of cases of COVID-19 continues to climb, with more than 423,493 confirmed cases and nearly 19,000 deaths worldwide as of March 25.

Read more 
Newly discovered plant pigments could hold food industry promise

Newly discovered plant pigments could hold food industry promise

23 Mar 2020

The discovery of a new class of natural colours could lead to more vibrant and stable colourings for foods and beverages. Is this the breakthrough the industry has been waiting for?

Read more 
Coronavirus: Supply chains under scrutiny

Coronavirus: Supply chains under scrutiny

22 Mar 2020

Covid-19 will reveal holes in the relative resilience of companies’ supply chains, as the global and interlinked nature of the food industry is laid bare.

Read more 
New textures make plant proteins more like meat

New textures make plant proteins more like meat

15 Mar 2020

New processing technologies are making the texture of meat alternatives more realistically meat-like than ever before, as manufacturers and consumers alike focus on texture as well as taste.

Read more 
Unscrambling the myths around eggs and heart health

Unscrambling the myths around eggs and heart health

15 Mar 2020

Yet another study has suggested no link between moderate egg consumption and heart disease risk, but despite research repeatedly finding little association between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol, many consumers continue to link eggs with hea...

Read more 
Targeting texture in indulgent foods and drinks

Targeting texture in indulgent foods and drinks

9 Mar 2020

Despite consumer assertions that they want healthier foods, sales of indulgent products continue to grow, providing opportunities for creamy, crunchy and contrasting textures in various categories.

Read more 
Sugar remains top concern for consumers

Sugar remains top concern for consumers

9 Mar 2020

Avoiding added sugar is the number one concern for consumers when using front-of-pack labelling to choose healthier foods and drinks, a new study suggests, while excess saturated fat and salt are less likely to influence purchase decisions.

Read more 
Blockchain uptake on the rise for secure food supply chains

Blockchain uptake on the rise for secure food supply chains

2 Mar 2020

Blockchain technology has been hailed as a way to improve transparency in food supply chains, and it is now being adopted by a growing number of companies.

Read more 
Natural blue: the quest for the holy grail of food colours

Natural blue: the quest for the holy grail of food colours

2 Mar 2020

The colour palette for naturally sourced food colours has become increasingly diverse, but blue colours have remained challenging. What options are available to food and beverage manufacturers?

Read more 
Are plant-based eggs the final frontier in faux food?

Are plant-based eggs the final frontier in faux food?

24 Feb 2020

Following on from plant-based proteins that mimic real meat, vegan egg substitutes have started to gain attention, with pioneering companies claiming that their products are convincing alternatives to the real thing.

Read more