Forget fat free, low sodium, zero trans fat, no added sugar, and the like. The hottest new food claim may be no claim at all. According to the market research group Mintel, consumers have become immune to complex label claims and health promises, and what they really want now are products that are well, real. ‘Natural’ and ‘pure’ have led label claims recently and more and more companies are simplifying food packaging and ingredient lists in back–to-basics fashion.
You’ve probably noticed the shift. There’s been a decrease in the average number of ingredients in 56 percent of the food and beverage categories trendologists track and ingredient lists are becoming more clear and clean. In an effort to provide shoppers with products made from ingredients they recognize, many brands are reformulating, and some now provide simple explanations after natural additives to clarify their origin and function. For example:
After soy lecithin you may now see the explanation (made from soybeans, used to hold ingredients together)
Following pectin you might see (a gelling agent from apples)
Next to annatto extract you may see (a natural color from the seeds of the achiote tree)
And after carrageenan a product may note (a gelling agent from seaweed)
These days simplicity is in and it seems the simpler the better. Case in point, here are five examples of packaged products I like with ingredient lists that read like a grocery list, not a science experiment:
Larabar, Cherry Pie
Ingredients: dates, almonds, unsweetened cherries
Amy’s Organic Chunky Vegetable Soup
Ingredients: filtered water, organic tomatoes, organic spinach, organic carrots, organic green beans, organic corn, organic peas, organic onions, organic celery, sea salt, organic cracked black pepper
Ingredients: sprouted organic rye kernels, filtered water
Bearitos No Salt, No Oil Microwave Popcorn
Ingredients: organic popcorn
Annie’s Naturals Dijon Mustard
Ingredients: organic distilled white vinegar, water, organic mustard seed, salt, organic clove
What’s your take on this topic? Are you tired of label claims and are you searching for clean, simple packaged foods? Is the ingredient list the first thing you look at? Please share your thoughts and favorite ‘real’ products @cynthiasass and @Shape_Magazine.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.