Health trends and guidelines are always changing. If you’ve heard of the clean label trend, however, it’s more than a passing fad. Unlike the manufactured diet plans designed to sell weight loss in the name of “health,” the clean label trend goes beyond calories, macros, and society’s love affair with weight shame. Instead, this trend takes a more critical look at the chemicals and substances that have been manufactured into our foods.

Where Did The Clean Label Trend Come From?

The growth of the clean label trend has come on the heals of surfacing links between chronic illnesses and, not fat, not sugar, but chemicals, pesticides, and fillers that have been added to our foods. The heavily-processed foods we purchase at the grocery store are quickly losing their resemblance to the original, whole-food ingredients humanity has sustained itself on for the past hundreds of thousands of years. While our bodies have had millennia to adapt to the foods that grew in the pre-industrialized earth, the pesticides, genetically-modified plants and animals, and heavy metals in our food now have only come into play in recent years since the industrialization of food production.

The clean label trend has gained traction as the effects of these substances on our bodies and health have begun to be made known. As a reaction to the laundry list of unpronounceable jargon on our ingredients labels, consumers have begun looking for brands and foods that offer labels with recognizable ingredients.

Are Chemicals Bad For You?

Many labels feature a myriad of unrecognizable ingredients that in reality are just the scientific or chemical names for common substances like vitamin B (e.g. niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine mononitrate, all found on the back of your bag of all-purpose flour at home). Everything around us has a chemical makeup. Chemistry, after all, is just the study of matter. Often, these substances in our packaged goods have been added back into foods that lost some of their nutrient richness during processing. However, consumers are pushing for labels that make these substances known to their non-chemist consumers or for foods that went through as minimal processing as possible so that the real culprits can be identified more easily. Clean labels accomplish that.

Is “Clean Label” A Regulated Term?

Unlike “organic” or “non-GMO,” a clean label is a consumer term used to describe straight-forward nutrition labels for foods made with simple and acceptable ingredients. The clean label trend has risen in response to consumer demand rather than a strictly-defined set of rules or regulations. Because of this demand, businesses are pivoting to cater to the evolving audience of conscientious shoppers. By providing ingredient and process transparency, on-board brands are helping citizens take the next step toward taking their health into their own hands rather than passively accepting what regulatory bodies allow or don’t allow. As our world becomes more connected with access to more information, consumers have more power than ever to impact the products that are created and made available to the average buyer.

Next Steps

Ultimately, the goal of the clean label trend is to improve consumers’ ability to understand what they’re purchasing and consuming. By pushing for more information, more research, and more transparency, the end-user has the ability to shape the health and wellbeing of generations to come through the quality of the substances available to eat.