A lot of consumers are hesitant to place much trust in the food supply. Many fear foodborne illness outbreaks and chemical contaminants and further believe that standards for animal welfare are not upheld in agriculture. Distrust of “industrial food” has led some consumers to seek out new avenues for food, including local farmers’ markets and independent shops that source locally grown produce and products from locally raised animals. However, these consumers also shop in a number of bigger stores such as supermarkets, mass merchandisers, and wholesale clubs and expect to find products that promise something different than conventionally produced food.

“Clean label” covers three broad areas of concern — what is in the food, how the food is produced, and who produces it. Examples of factors important to clean labels include:

  • recognizable ingredients and fewer of them
  • minimal processing without preservatives, additives, or artificial ingredients
  • produced without pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, or GMOs
  • sustainable, environmentally responsible production practices
  • reduced waste/carbon footprint in production, packaging, and transportation
  • product traceability and company transparency
  • ethical, socially conscious business practices
  • conscious/local sourcing
  • truth in advertising

Clean label is a spectrum, as some products may be perceived as “cleaner” than others and opinions differ from person to person. In general though, consumers believe that companies cannot hide behind clean label claims printed on the package, as ingredient and nutritional panels speak for themselves and allow a consumer to accurately judge how clean a product is.

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Table Of Contents

  • Executive Summary
    • Expanding Availability & Lower Prices Are Key Factors to Increasing Sales of Clean Label & Organic Foods
    • What Is "Clean Label"?
    • Key Consumer Trends
    • Scope
  • Clean Label Overview
    • Highlights
    • Definitions & Standards
    • Clean Label
      • There Is No Established Definition of "Clean Label"
      • There Is No Hiding Behind a Clean Label
      • Many Consumers Believe Cleaner Foods Are Healthier, Tastier, Safer, and Better
      • The Term "Processed" Is Arbitrary
      • A Large Segment of the Population Avoids Added Sugars and Artificial Ingredients
    • Organic
    • Natural
    • Non-GMO
    • Grass-Fed
    • Food Allergens
    • Gluten-Free
    • Animal Welfare-Related Label Claims
  • Organic & Clean Label Foods: Overview & Market Trends
    • Highlights
    • Organic Penetration and Sales Estimates from Different Sources
    • Specialty Food Sales
    • Growth in Household Usage of Organic Foods
      • Table Household Use of Organic Foods, 2014-2019 (percent of households)
    • Fresh Food Categories Show Highest Usage Rates
      • Table Household Use of Organic Foods by Type, 2014-2019 (percent of households that use organic foods)
    • Consumption of Organic Fresh Produce Growing
      • Table Household Consumption of Organic vs. Non-Organic Fresh Produce, 2014-2019 (percent of households)
    • Food Safety Issues
      • Most Consumers Are Not Very Confident in the U.S. Food Supply
      • Animal Antibiotic Ban Reassures Consumers of the Safety of Animal Products
      • Foodborne Illness Is the Number One Food Safety Concern Among Consumers
      • Young Consumers Less Likely to Trust the Government in Product Recalls
      • Chemical Contaminants Are a Food Safety Issue in Plant-Based and Organic Products
      • New Information Can Change Level of Concern About Chemicals in Food
    • Animal Welfare Issues
      • More Consumers Want Animals Raised for Food to Be Treated Humanely
      • Most Consumers Don't Think Animal Welfare Standards Are Upheld, and Understanding of Animal Welfare Claims Is Limited
      • USDA Publishes Then Withdraws Rule on Organic Livestock Requirements
      • "Humane" Claims May Signify No Meaningful Difference in Production Methods
    • Trends in Restaurants & Grocery Store Takeout
      • Clean Label & Organic Consumers Go Out to Eat More Frequently
      • Consumers Think It Is Difficult to Follow a Plant-Based Diet While Eating Out
      • Food Quality, Taste, and Cleanliness Are Key Factors When Choosing a Restaurant
      • Consumers Think Food Labeling Is More Important When Shopping
      • Organic/Natural Shoppers Approve of Healthier Fast Food
        • Table Opinions on Fast Food & Reported Hobbies, 2019 (percent and index)
      • Clean Label & Organic Consumers Are More Likely to Purchase Prepared Foods from Grocery Stores
      • Differing Motivations for Purchasing Prepared Foods from Grocery Stores
      • Unclean Ingredients Are Being Removed from Restaurant Menus
      • Limited Time Offers Can Be Important to Test Markets for Clean Ingredients
      • Clean Label Menu Items and Types of Restaurants Where Clean Label Is Important
      • Although Many Plant-Based Foods Are Not Clean, They Are Being Launched in the Mainstream and Indicate More Room for Growth
    • Plant-Based Substitutes for Animal Products Facing Definitional Challenges
    • Personalized Nutrition
    • Convenience Used to Mean Unhealthy Foods, But Meal Delivery Services Say No More
    • Investing in Blockchain and Big Data to Satisfy Consumer Desires for Transparency
    • Consumers Think Small and Medium Businesses Have More Credibility
    • Organic Farming Takes Root, But Imports Still Meet Much of Demand
    • Reformulating Functional Ingredients to Be Clean Label Friendly
  • Motivations for Organic & Clean Label Eating
    • Highlights
    • Core Clean Label and Organic Consumers Strongly Agree They Always Buy or Make Every Effort to Eat These Foods
    • Extensive Overlap Between Clean Label and Organic Consumers
    • Relative Importance of Clean Label Features When Shopping for Food
      • Table Relative Importance of Product Characteristics When Shopping for Food (percent of clean label vs. organic vs. all consumers)
    • Special Eating Practices Have a High Correlation with Eating Organic/Clean Label Foods
      • Table Special Eating Practices Followed Most Often, 2019 (percent of clean label vs. organic vs. all consumers)
    • People Who Are Gluten-Free, Vegan, or Vegetarian Are More Likely to Eat Clean Label/Organic
      • Table Primary Special Eating Practices Followed, With Overlap Among Practices, 2019 (percent of consumers following more than one eating practice)
    • Adherence to Special Diets Common Among the Population But Especially Likely with Clean Label and Organic Consumers
      • Table Selected Diet Choices, 2019 (percent of clean label vs. organic vs. all consumers)
    • Many Consumers Prefer Healthier Foods Without Additives
      • Table Lifestyle Statements on Food, 2019 (percent of consumers)
    • Price Is the Biggest Hurdle to Adoption of Organic and Clean Label Eating
    • Consumers Are Willing to Pay More for Clean Label Foods
  • Organic & Clean Label Retail Trends
    • Highlights
    • Where Organic and Clean Label Consumers Shop, and Why
      • Organic and Cleaner Private Label Brands Have Wide Availability
        • Table Selected Private Label Brands Catering to Organic and Clean Label Consumers
      • Organic Consumers Shop Around
      • Clean Label Consumers Also Buy Natural & Specialty Foods from a Number of Venues
      • Online Grocery Shopping and Food Delivery More Popular with Organic/Natural Shoppers
        • Table Use of Online Grocery Shopping and Food Delivery Services, 2019 (percent of organic/natural vs. all consumers)
      • Organic/Natural Foods Are More Mainstream Than Ever
      • Organic/Natural Shoppers Prefer Local & Specialty Stores
        • Table Consumer Shopping Preferences & Behaviors, 2019 (percent of organic/natural vs. all consumers)
      • Clean Label and Organic Consumers Place Higher Priority on the Shopping Experience
    • Trends in Fresh Produce
      • More Consumers Are Trying to Increase Intake of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
      • Merchandising Is Key to Selling More Produce
      • Opportunities for New Fresh Produce Products
      • Who Buys Organic Produce?
        • Table Characteristics of Organic Produce Buyers, 2019 (percent of organic produce vs. all consumers)
    • Trends in Meat & Seafood
      • Seafood Sustainability
      • Consumption of Meat and Plant-Based Alternatives
      • Raising Animals More Naturally and Ethical Meat Consumption
      • Opportunities for New Meat & Seafood Products
      • Who Buys Organic Meat?
        • Table Characteristics of Organic Meat Buyers (percent of organic meat vs. all consumers)
    • Trends in Dairy
      • Milk Consumption
      • Animal Welfare Issues
      • Opportunities for New Dairy Products
      • New Plant-Based Dairy Alternatives
      • Who Buys Organic Dairy Products?
        • Table Characteristics of Organic Dairy Product Buyers (percent of organic dairy vs. all consumers)
    • Trends in Packaged/Processed Foods
      • The Clean Label Tradeoff
      • Snacks
      • Vegetarian and Vegan Foods
      • Big Food Moving into Plant Proteins
      • Plant Blends for Greater Nutrition
      • Opportunities for New Organic Kitchen Staples
      • Who Buys Organic Packaged Foods?
        • Table Characteristics of Organic Packaged Food Buyers (percent of organic packaged vs. all consumers)
    • Trends in Beverages
      • Organic and Clean Label Consumers See Claims for Beverages as Lower Priority
      • Clean Label and Organic Claims Are Also Less of a Priority for Selecting Alcoholic Beverages
      • Fewer Beverages Have Clean Label Claims, and Reformulating Beverage Ingredients Can Be More Difficult Than with Foods
      • Opportunities for New Beverages
  • Consumer Demographics
    • Highlights
    • Age Is an Important Determinant of Natural/Organic Consumers
      • Table Use of Organic Foods and Seeking Out Organic and Natural Foods by Age Bracket (percent and index of those who use organic foods vs. those who especially look for organic foods)
    • Race/Ethnicity Also Play a Role
      • Table Use of Organic Foods and Seeking Out Organic and Natural Foods by Race and Ethnicity (percent and index of those who use organic foods vs. those who especially look for organic foods)
    • Geographic Region
      • Table Use of Organic Foods and Seeking Out Organic and Natural Foods by Geographic Region (percent and index of those who use organic foods vs. those who especially look for organic foods)
    • Educational Achievement
      • Table Use of Organic Foods and Seeking Out Organic and Natural Foods by Educational Achievement (percent and index of those who use organic foods vs. those who especially look for organic foods)
    • Presence of Children
      • Table Use of Organic Foods and Seeking Out Organic and Natural Foods by Presence of Children in Household (percent and index of those who use organic foods vs. those who especially look for organic foods)
    • Household Income
      • Table Use of Organic Foods and Seeking Out Organic and Natural Foods by Household Income Bracket (percent and index of those who use organic foods vs. those who especially look for organic foods)
  • Consumer Psychographics
    • Highlights
    • Clean Label Attitudes
      • Table Clean Label Attitudes Among Organic and Natural Food Consumers, 2019 (percent and index of those who use organic foods vs. those who especially look for organic foods)
      • Table Clean Label Attitudes Among Organic Fresh Produce Users, 2019 (percent and index of those who eat organic fresh fruit vs. organic fresh vegetables)
      • Table Clean Label Attitudes Among Organic and Natural Food Consumers, 2019 (percent and index of those who use organic eggs vs. milk vs. poultry most often)
    • Environmental Responsibility Is Personal
      • Table Environmental Attitudes Among Locally Grown and Organic/Natural Food Consumers, 2019 (percent and index)
    • Foodie Preferences Common with Organic/Natural Consumers
      • Table Agreement with Selected "Foodie Statements" by Organic/Natural Food Consumers, 2019 (percent and index)
    • Engagement with Foods Through Cooking
      • Table Opinions on Cooking by Organic/Natural Food Consumers, 2019 (percent and index)
    • Novelty & Openness to Exploring New Foods
      • Table Interest in Trying New Foods by Organic/Natural Food Consumers, 2019 (percent and index)
    • Clean Label Consumers Consider Themselves Influential in Peer Groups & Communities
      • Table Statements About Personal Influence on Friends, Associates, and Community, 2019 (index)
    • Opportunity: Get Older Consumers More Interested in Eating Clean
      • Table Statements About Health and Diet by Age Bracket, 2019 (any agree, index)