Natural and clean labels

Safeguarding consumers and improving health standards

Meaning of 'Clean Label'

Labels are ingredient lists found on food and beverage products. What makes a label ‘clean’ is the manner in which the ingredients are communicated to the consumer. Clean labels are short lists with familiar, natural ingredients (that have nutritive value) and no artificial additives. They are easy to comprehend and help in increasing the consumer’s trust in the product and/or brand.


Science-based practices for clean labels

According to the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), the consumer’s demand for authenticity and transparency ensures the food industry is discerning about ingredients and the supply chain is also being clear and truthful.

Whilst the consumer drives the industry’s transparency to the greatest extent, certain science-based practices for clean labels are also implemented. These include:

Natural ingredients (without additives), minimally processed, and socially responsible ingredients have now become non-negotiable requisites for clean labels.

Transparency with respect to the ingredients and processes can go a long way in inspiring hope in the brand and their products.

Minimise consumer perceptions of risk/harm by increasing ingredient awareness. Clean labels must also be mindful of the verbiage that addresses certain risk factors associated with specific ingredients.

Simplicity and legibility should be maintained with easy to comprehend language and readable fonts.

Less chemical more reassuring

Most consumers do not have enough knowledge or credible awareness about the actual ingredients and their probable implications unless they do an internet search perhaps. Clean labels can be more reassuring and less panic-inducing by avoiding the use of complicated chemical terminology.

Several brands have been known to greening up their foods and beverages by just adding plant-based ingredients to products like meats and dairy. However, this can lead to further confusion and paranoia on the part of the consumer. Prof Joanne Slavin, from the Department of Food and Nutrition, University of Minnesota explains that intake of nutrients like fiber, potassium, calcium, and Vitamin D can lead to a decline of clean label adherence as the ingredients may be listed in the form of chemical-sounding jargon.

Clean eating for healthy living

Clean eating involves

Simply put, knowing the ingredients you’re consuming can increase your chances of adhering to a healthier lifestyle. Consumers today are becoming increasingly concerned and aware of the foods they are consuming. Clean labels fulfill the consumer’s need for healthy food, especially the kinds that are unprocessed, natural, preservative-free, pure, and simple.

Clean vs Natural

Clear labeling that lists the ingredients and their types is imperative. The most important ‘ingredient’ of a clean label is transparency. A more wholesome (natural) definition will involve terms like lack of additives, lack of common allergens and so on.

There really is no clear distinction between clean and natural. In a way, natural is what makes the label clean.

‘Natural food has to be natural’ - FSSAI

In 2018, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India declared food companies cannot use words like natural, organic, traditional, authentic, fresh, genuine, pure, real on their labels unless their products are not processed in any way other than ‘washed, peeled, chilled, and trimmed’.

The FSSAI also stipulates that the term natural will be permitted only for foods derived from plant, animal, microorganism, or mineral. Foods that do not have anything artificial or synthetic (this included colour additives irrespective of how they have been sourced) are recognised as natural.

Label accreditation

Given the importance of labeling and how they have made the consumer more informed and conscious about their food choices, label certification and accreditation goes a long way in furthering the claims made by brands.



Goodness Meter is a transparent label accreditation tool developed by Thinking Forks. The tool verifies the standards of Nutrition, Food Safety, and Ingredients used by brands, thereby making the latter accountable for the foods they deliver to their consumers. 

How can existing product labels be made clean and safe?

For existing products, it is essential to review the existing terminology on the corresponding labels. If any health claims can be made, they need to be verified and supported with adequate study and research.

The nutritional information must be representative of a specific portion so that the consumer knows the exact contents of what they are eating/drinking.

To sum up…

Consumers are becoming more and more sentient about their diet and nutritive intake. Since the demand for healthy food is only going to increase, clean labels have also become an important component of the relationship between the consumer and the F&B industry. 

At the same time, the consumer must know that a clean label can only list out the ingredients and their probable benefits. They do not guarantee safety.

For more information on clean labels, visit our website


About author

Palak holds a M.Sc. in Food Science and Nutrition and believes in holistic wellness. Her passion is to benefit the industry by developing food products, maintain food quality standards with appropriate nutrition labeling. A progressive thinker and an able communicator, she has completed her internship with various reputed organizations in the field of food and nutrition.
Ms. Palak Agrawal
Development Associate (Nutrition)