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Nutritional Labeling and Clean Labels in the U.S.: Future of Food Retailing


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Nutritional Labeling and Clean Labels in the U.S.: Future of Food Retailing

“Clean label” has become one of the hottest topics in the food and beverage industry as consumers look ever more closely at what goes into their food and beverages. Many consumers are now using the kitchen test—“can the ingredients on the label be found in my own kitchen?”—as their rule of thumb to determine whether or not to buy a product. They are using ingredient panels on packages as a litmus test, looking for a short list of "real food" ingredients they recognize, and avoiding products laced with with unpronounceable, chemical-sounding ingredients. Consumer preference for clean labels and concerns about food additives are pressing issues for the processed food industry because they are deeply rooted in long-term trends including consumers’ focus on the connection between diet and health, combined with their ambivalence toward the processed food industry and skepticism about health claims on packaged foods.

While the federal government regulates the information on Nutrition Facts panels and ingredients labels on packaged foods and beverages, many leading marketers, retailers, and foodservice providers are ahead of the pack when it comes to labeling trends. These companies are redirecting proactively as they feel the winds of change—whether from potential government legislation, nutritional recommendations, or consumer demands—by reformulating and repositioning mainstream products and lines with simpler ingredients and cleaner labels. Steps taken include shortening ingredients lists; removing artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives; cutting sugar content; and switching to ingredients that are not genetically modified.

Scope and Methodology

Packaged Facts’ brand-new report, Nutritional Labeling and Clean Labels in the U.S.: Future of Food Retailing, is divided into three sections. The first focuses on the nutrition labeling required for virtually all packaged foods and beverages sold in the United States, and on the parameters for clean label.

The second part of the report analyzes extensive data from a proprietary Packaged Facts National Consumer Survey conducted in January 2015 and Simmons National Consumer Survey data from Experian Marketing Services, as well as other published surveys, delving deeply into consumer use of nutritional labeling information, their preference for clean labels, and concerns about food additives.

The final chapter profiles more than two dozen mainstream marketers, retailers, and foodservice providers that are marketing clean label products and lines, including marketers such as General Mills, The Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods Group, Nestlé S.A., PepsiCo, and Unilever; retailers ranging from ALDI and Kroger Co. to Safeway, Walmart, and Whole Foods Market; and foodservice providers like Chipotle Mexican Grill, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s USA, and Subway.

In addition to the Packaged Facts consumer survey, our primary research for Nutritional Labeling and Clean Labels in the U.S.: Future of Food Retailing includes on-site examinations of retail and foodservice channels. Secondary research involved evaluating and comparing data from more than 200 articles and reports found in industry publications; government data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); reports by industry associations such as the American Beverage Association, the Food Marketing Institute, the Grocery Marketers Association, and the International Food Information Council Foundation; scrutinizing the websites and press releases from individual companies; annual reports, 10Ks, transcripts of earnings calls, and other financial releases from public companies; and other Packaged Facts reports.


  • Executive Summary
    • Overview of Labeling Requirements and Clean Label Trends
      • Federal Regulations for Food and Beverage Labels
      • FDA Proposes Changes to Nutrition Facts Label
      • Hot Button Issue: Added Sugars
      • Front-of-the-Package Nutrition Labels
      • Hot Button Issue: GMOs
    • The Consumer
      • Price Trumps Nutrition When It Comes to Purchasing Food
      • Many Actively Seek Out Nutritional Information and Guidelines
      • Calories, Sugars, Sodium, and Fat Information the Most Important
      • Consumers Ambivalent About Processed Foods, Want Fewer Ingredients
      • Package Label Claims Consumers Seek Most
      • Majority of Consumers Trying to Eat More Healthily
      • Almost Half of Consumers Skeptical About Health Claims on Labels
    • Marketing, Retailing and Foodservice Trends
      • Marketer Trends
      • Retailer Trends
      • Restaurant and Foodservice Trends
  • Overview of Labeling Requirements and Clean Label Trends
    • Federal Regulations for Food and Beverage Labels
      • Meat and Poultry Labeling
      • Exemptions to Nutrition Labeling
      • Small Business Exemptions
    • Federal Labeling Rules for Menus and Vending Machines
    • FDA Proposes Changes to Nutrition Facts Label
      • Time Frame for the Updated Nutrition Facts Panel
      • Changes in Nutrition Labeling
      • Changes in Serving Size Requirements
    • Hot Button Issue: Added Sugars
    • Dietary Guidelines for Americans
    • Icons, from Food Pyramid to MyPlate
    • Proposed New Dietary Guidelines
    • Industry Labeling Initiatives
      • Industry Initiatives Spurred by the Obama Administration
      • Front-of-the-Package Nutrition Labels
      • Clear on Calories
      • Facts Up Front
    • Environmental Working Group's Food Scores
    • Retailers' Nutrition Ratings
    • Clean Labels
      • What Is "Clean Label"?
      • Ingredients Consumers Can Recognize
      • Free-From
      • Clean Label a Challenge for Food Developers
      • When Clean Labels Are Too Clean
      • Hot Button Issue: GMOs
      • Transparency in Sourcing
  • The Consumer
    • Packaged Facts Proprietary Survey
      • Shoppers Mindful of Nutrition, Ingredients
      • Price Trumps Nutrition When It Comes to Purchasing Food
      • Vast Majority of Shoppers Look at Nutrition Facts Panel
      • Many Actively Seek Out Nutritional Information and Guidelines
      • Calories, Sugars, Sodium, and Fat Information the Most Important
      • Most Consumers Want Fats and Sugars Broken Out by Type
        • Table Consumer Attitudes Toward the Nutrition Facts Panel, 2015 (percent of U.S. adults)
      • Consumers Ambivalent About Processed Foods, Want Fewer Ingredients
        • Table Consumer Attitudes Toward Ingredients, 2015 (percent of U.S. adults)
      • General Attitudes Toward Nutrition
        • Table General Consumer Attitudes Toward Nutrition, 2015 (percent of U.S. adults)
      • Nutrient Influence on Fresh and Packaged Food Choices
      • Package Label Claims Consumers Seek Most
      • Cholesterol, Blood Pressure, and Weight the Key Health Issues
      • Most Consumers Watching their Diet to Improve Health
    • Simmons National Consumer Survey
      • Majority of Consumers Trying to Eat More Healthily
        • Table Percent of U.S. Adults Who Agree/Disagree with the Statement, "I try to eat healthier foods these days," 2004 vs. 2014
      • Nutritional Value the Top Consideration in Choosing Which Foods to Eat
        • Table Percent of U.S. Adults Who Agree/Disagree with the Statement, "Nutritional value is the most important factor in the foods I eat," 2004 vs.
      • Consumers Want to Know About Ingredients
        • Table Percent of U.S. Adults Who Agree/Disagree with the Statement, "I like to know as much as possible about ingredients before I buy food
        • Table Percent of U.S. Adults Who Agree/Disagree with the Statement, "I actively seek information about nutrition and healthy diet," 2004 vs. 2014
    • International Food Information Council Foundation Survey
      • The Free-From Shopper
      • Almost Half of Consumers Skeptical About Health Claims on Labels
      • Consumers Trust Labels More Than the Media
      • Consumers Have Mixed Responses about Processed Foods
    • Other Consumer Surveys
      • NPD Group Finds That Consumers Have Cut Back on "Better for You" Foods
      • National Grocers Association-Supermarket Guru 2014 Survey
      • Hartman Group
      • Nutrition Business Journal Survey on Clean Label
      • Natural Marketing Institute: Consumers Use Label Information to Make Food Choices
      • Mothers More Likely Than Fathers to Read Nutrition Labels
      • Organic Trade Association U.S. Families' Organic Attitudes and Beliefs Survey
      • 80% of Americans Support Mandatory Labeling for DNA in Foods
  • Marketing, Retailing, and Foodservice Trends
    • Food and Beverage Industry Going Cleaner
    • Simply Simple Brand Names
    • Marketer Trends
      • The Dannon Co.
      • Flowers Foods Inc.
      • General Mills Inc.
    • Retailer Trends
      • Natural Product Retailers Blaze the Trail
    • Restaurant and Foodservice Trends

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