Label PRomotion | To Cram or Not To Cram...That Is the Question

The “Clean Label” movement reflects consumers’ desire for labels free of unfettered hype.

For many years, the name of the game in product marketing was to cram, cram, cram. Put as much information as possible on the label, develop a long list of ingredients that would contribute to better taste, longer shelf life, performance, or perception. More equated to better.

Now, the trend is toward less—fewer ingredients, uncluttered, easily understood presentation on the label, and the like.

“Clean Label” exemplifies this trend. Essentially, it’s a movement to simplify (a/k/a purify) ingredients/contents to address consumer demand for healthy/pure versus processed/adulterated products. It also extends to how the information about those products appears on labels and elsewhere. Increasingly, consumers want uncluttered clarity about what’s in the products they buy. Presentation of that information needs to be simple, straightforward and believable.

The days of unfettered hype, on labels and elsewhere, are disappearing. And when a claim is made about health and other benefits, it had better stand up to scrutiny. comments on consumer sentiments in a March 2016 article, noting, “From sweet treats to savory snacks, from breakfast to at-home happy hours and late-night indulgences, clean label is sweeping through marketplace shelves at a rapid pace. Major brands and quick-service chains are removing controversial ingredients while pledging simplicity and authenticity.”

The article then points out that labels need to follow suit: “But there’s still a disconnect between consumers and manufacturing labels. According to Mintel’s ‘Food Packaging Trends: Spotlight on Food Labeling, US, August 2015’ report, ‘Labels are not resonating with shoppers’ needs and may be in need of an overhaul…Perhaps that overhaul is what’s been brewing more recently with clear, transparent labels that talk consumer speak. From a consumer standpoint, clean label is less driven by nutritional claims and panels, and more by ingredient transparency and reputation.’”

Overblown label verbiage about healthful qualities can stir disturbing negative press in a world far less tolerant of exaggeration and unsubstantiated claims. A report in points out that manufacturers need to be sensitive to what the customer and end consumers define as being “natural” or other descriptors.

The article states, “Marketers planning to make clean label claims should be aware of the legal issues surrounding them," said David L. Ter Molen, partner and member of the food industry team at the Chicago law firm Freeborn & Peters L.L.P. "…Many food and beverage marketers have started using such terms as ‘artisan,’ ‘clean,’ ‘earth friendly,’ ‘local,’ ‘pure,’ and ‘simple’ on product packages and web sites. But like the now highly scrutinized term ‘natural,’ the use of these descriptors may carry risks…‘Natural claims came under such heavy fire because many food companies gave the term a broad meaning while class-action attorneys and activists had room to argue a much narrower meaning,’…Describing a juice product as ‘100% pure’…may be risky if the product has been reconstituted or moderately processed…”

In labeling, branding, and product formulation, the days of getting away with over-promising and under-delivering are dwindling. While consumers may feel powerless in some areas of their lives, they increasingly are gaining strength in their buying decisions. Companies that continue to make unsubstantiated claims will increasingly find themselves tagged with the label “out of business.”

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. is president of Lusky Enterprises Inc., a marketing communications and content development company. Since 2008, he has worked with Lightning Labels, a Denver-based all-digital custom label printing company, as a content developer specializing in expert advice articles. Lusky presents common-sense ideas grounded in doing what’s real and right for managing and enhancing public image.


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