The Clean Eating Revolution

The constant change in the grocery sector makes it an exciting sector in which to work. Given consumer food habits are constantly changing, it makes for exciting times for consultants like myself, brokers, distributors, retailers, and manufacturers. For instance, while 62% of consumers review a product’s ingredient list, more than half use front-of-pack labeling as a source of information.[i] Clear indication consumers are taking direct action to educate themselves about the specific ingredients in the foods they purchase. This has given rise to the “Clean Eating Evolution”.

We are a little over a decade into the era of clean eating, which was first introduced in 2007 by a Canadian fitness coach who stressed the importance of avoiding processed foods. Today, the global clean-label ingredients market is growing at a robust CAGR of 6.78% and is forecasted to achieve sales of $68.6B USD by the end of 2028.[ii]

What is the Definition of Clean Eating?

Currently, there is still no clear definition of clean eating. It is in the eyes of the consumer. To them, it means eating foods in which the ingredients are believed to be healthy, nutritious, and sustainable. The International Food Information Council (IFIC) attempted to better understand what consumers mean when it comes to “clean” through their June 2021 Survey: From “Chemical-sounding” to “Clean”: Consumer Perspectives on Food Ingredients. They revealed:

  1. One in five – 21%, ranked “eating foods that aren’t highly processed” as their top definition of the term.
  2. Fourteen percent (14%) of self-described clean eaters defined it as eating foods found in the fresh produce section.
  3. Thirteen percent (13%) as eating organic foods,
  4. Eleven percent (11%) as eating foods with simple ingredient lists.
  5. Nine percent (9%) defined it as eating foods with ingredients they just consider to be “clean.”[iii]

Why Do Consumers Choose Foods and Beverages with Clean Ingredients?

As part of the IFIC survey undertaken in 2021, nearly half of consumers consider themselves to be “clean” eaters.[iv] When asked why they choose food and beverages with clean ingredients,  “seek out health benefits” emerged as the top motivator as outlined in Chart 1.

Chart 1

Why Consumers Choose Foods and Beverages with Clean Ingredients[v]

Why Consumers Choose Foods and Beverages with Clean Ingredients

What Products are Consumers Reducing Consumption Of?

Healthy eating today means cutting back in many areas. Sugar and processed foods represent the top 2 products consumers have reduced consumption of as outlined in Chart 2.

Chart 2

Top 5 Items Consumers Have Reduced Consumption in Over the Past 12-Months.[vi]

Top 5 Items Consumers Have Reduced Consumption in Over the Past 12-Months

Impact for Manufacturers to Move Forward

There’s a good reason for manufacturers to press forward, despite the hurdles: growth potential. The 2021 Global Clean Label Manufacturer Study found that converting products to clean labels led to average self-reported gains in overall revenue, margins, and in product pricing as outlined in Chart 3.

Chart 3

Business Impact of Clean Label, North America[vii]

TBusiness Impact of Clean Label, North America

Clean Eating is a trend that continues to gain momentum. The industry has taken notice with a minimum 50% of global manufacturers cited in the Ingredion study revealing their portfolios have already converted to clean label formulations. As part of the same study,

  1. 71% of consumers were willing to pay more for current brands that have reformulated their product ingredients.
  2. 82% of consumers cited a high likelihood of switching brands to those with cleaner ingredients.[viii]

The Food You Eat Can be Ether the Safest and Most Powerful Form of Medicine or the Slowest Form of Poison”.

Ann Wigmore,


[i] Consumers are Paying More Attention to the Ingredient’s List, Report Finds,, June 2021

[ii] At 6.78%, Clean Label Ingredients Market Size is to Hit USD 68.57Bn by 2028,, February 2022

[iii] What is “Clean Eating”? Navigating a Controversial Nutrition Trend,, September 2021

[iv] What is “Clean Eating”? Navigating a Controversial Nutrition Trend,, September 2021

[v] From “Chemical-Sounding” to “Clean”: Consumer Perspective on Food Ingredients, www.Informtion Food Information Council, June 2021

[vi] What Does “Clean Eating” Really Mean to Consumers,, October 2022

[vii] Uncovering the Clean Label Connection to Business Growth,, May 2022

[viii] Clean Label Claims Boost Sales, But What Categories Benefit Most,, July 2022