IFT sneak preview: What “clean” means for companies and consumers

May 30, 2019
4 min read

Clean no longer refers only to water quality or a spotless kitchen. It has become an adjective with many meanings across industries, with countless brands using the term and its related terminology to market to consumers.

Here, we’re sharing a preview of the upcoming IFT19 live panel discussion, “What ‘clean’ means for products and consumers,” presented next week by Director of Innovation and Insight, Lynn Dornblaser.

Clean lifestyle grows across categories

The definition of health and wellness has become more holistic in recent years; as such, brands are shifting mission statements and changing marketing strategies to emphasize consumers’ wellbeing.

This holistic categorization has opened the door for nearly all industries to tap into wellness marketing, encompassing the worlds of food, fashion, beauty, personal care, household, travel, consumer technology, leisure, hospitality, retail, finance and beyond.

This broad and holistic emphasis on health has also enabled clean lifestyles to bloom. To nurture and support their wellbeing, consumers are seeking out products that focus on natural and real, eschewing artificial and processed.

Clean beauty

Consumers are divided over the meaning of clean beauty, with multiple definitions popping up, including green beauty, cruelty-free products and organic ingredients. In general, consumers are more concerned with clean skincare products than clean makeup. When discussing harmful ingredients in beauty products, parabens were the top ingredient mentioned, according to Mintel research.

Clean beauty products are gaining a cult following

Welda Skin Food All in One Nourishing Cream for Face and Body uses plant extracts such as rosemary, chamomile and sunflower oil. Products are certified-natural by NATRUE.

Tata Harper Clarifying Cleanser features ingredients locally grown on organic farmland. The brand pioneered a farm-to-face approach by keeping the entire development process in-house and highlighting transparency through its Traceability program.

Drunk Elephant C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream features hero marula oil and promotes a lengthy list of free-from ingredient claims. Product efficacy is delivered by pairing natural and synthetic ingredients.

Clean eating

Consumers lean toward a more general definition of clean eating such as eating in a healthy manner, often closely tied to getting fit. However, terms revolving around specific diets are also popular, such as veganism or gluten-free.

Consumers also tend to couple clean eating with other healthy lifestyle choices, such as being active or using clean home products. With this in mind, it’s clear that consumers see clean eating as more of a lifestyle than a product classification.

Free-from claims are used to establish a natural image

Natural products are evolving to more clean label products, emphasizing free-from claims, minimal processing and simple ingredient statements without artificial ingredients.

RXBar showcases a label that is also the ingredient list. The US brand takes a whimsical approach to essential “free-from” claims, in this case “No BS.”

Mango Apple Chia Fruit Bars contain only mango, apple and chia pressed together into a bar.

Vanilla Triple Cream Icelandic-Style Strained Yogurt has on-pack messaging that offers consumers just what is necessary to inform purchase decision.

Clean (household) cleaning

Consumers have a better-defined sense of clean eating and that’s shaping their perception of clean cleaning. It is shifting from the removal of demonized ingredients to the inclusion of natural, food-based ingredients and, increasingly, limited ingredient claims. The goal of “clean cleaning” is also evolving. Early green, niche household brands focused more on their environmental impact than consumer health. While the environment is still important, messaging is becoming more holistic.

What’s good for the consumer and the environment are merging. There is a growing realization that home care products enter the body through the skin and lungs and that is creating an emerging market for natural home care. There is also a growing concern about disinfecting, and some consumers are adopting alternative means of controlling germs.

Limited-ingredient home care products

Tuff Towel is a nanotech-based cleaning cloth that cleans with plain water and replaces 100 rolls of paper towels.

Caricia baby laundry detergent contains fewer chemical agents than the average detergent and is suitable for baby’s sensitive skin.

Lysol Daily Cleanser cleans with electrocuted water to clean and disinfect without harsh chemicals.


Mintel’s team of expert food and drink, food science and product innovation analysts will be at IFT, June 2-5 in New Orleans. To see the live panel discussion of “What ‘clean’ means for products and consumers,” stop by Mintel booth #2351 and check out the full schedule of presentations here.

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