Clean Label Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

A year ago, you may not have heard of Clean Label – now the trend is going mainstream and full-steam ahead into 2018. Clean Label incorporates both what is in the product, but also the process to how a product is made. Consumers today – especially Millennials – want transparency in the products they buy, understanding where ingredients are sourced, but also the steps in producing the product.

For many food companies and restaurants, this means removing. A recent article in The Washington Post cites some of the steps companies such as Pillsbury are taking to make products more natural or healthy – in essence, moving toward Clean Label. “’Clean eating’ is the new black, the new kale, the new, new thing.” The focus is on removing artificial ingredients and additives, such as flavors, colors, high fructose corn syrup.

That’s why we studied consumer perceptions of this important trend in our latest publication: Clean Labels in a Transparent World. Our research covers awareness, attitudes and perceptions of Clean Label, and how this trend is impacting consumer behavior and purchase both for personal care and food. We also share a case study for developing and testing Clean Label claims – how to talk about Clean Label in a way that motivates consumer behavior. We used BuzzBack Claims Express on ZappiStore to find out which Clean Label claims resonate most in the US, UK, and China – and it only took a few days.

Want to learn what’s important when it comes to this hot topic? Get in touch with us below and we can schedule an in-person or over the phone presentation for you or your team. Or, click here to find out how you can use BuzzBack Claims Express to identify top claims immediately.

More Delight. Less Disappointment.

Zappos. Warby Parker. Lumoid. Casper Mattresses. What do these companies have in common? A celebrated try-before-you-buy policy. These brands are pretty confident their products and services will be winners with consumers. After all, Casper claims to be “one perfect mattress.” That’s quite a high bar. Or a costly brag if they have to send a truck out to reclaim a mattress from an unsatisfied buyer.

This strategy is timely given increasingly sophisticated consumers who demand brands deliver on expectations. But it’s one that could be riddled with risk for companies that don’t test product positioning and even packaging.  Because consumers are more empowered, informed, and connected than ever, it’s critical for companies to clearly communicate the brand promise and have a firm grasp of the actual user experience with their product. Whether a $1 candy bar or an $800 mattress, customers don’t want unhappy surprises with their purchase – just delight.

How can brands ensure that the experience that they’re promising is fulfilling expectations? Usage testing is a wonderfully effective way to make sure what a company thinks they’re selling is in fact what the consumer is experiencing.

One shelf-stable food brand asked us to learn whether the positioning and messaging that they had developed matched what consumers were experiencing at home. We set out to determine which messaging elements worked and why – how well the product delivered on the promise being made. What communication facets needed to change? Our visual and verbal techniques – online projectives – are ideal for helping consumers articulate the experience and benefits of the product (including sensorial and tactile). Through in home product usage, we revealed the phrases and words that could be adopted or incorporated into copy. This helped craft an authentic message that was faithful to the experience.

This approach can be included further upstream when developing product concepts, and even later when testing packaging – all in effort to ensure each part of the consumer journey meets and exceeds expectations. This was the case with a beverage company who needed consumers to evaluate packaging. While consumers had previously raved about the product, they hated the proposed packaging – a delightful product could have been torpedoed by a disastrous container. We were able to identify specific packaging requirements that would be equally appealing as the product inside.

So, is your brand promising perfection? Fun? Luxury? Whatever the essence you believe it telegraphs – make sure it’s one grounded in the reality of the consumer usage experience.

Nuts: Health Snack or Too Much Fat?

Are they or aren’t they?

The definition of healthy is quite possibly society’s most influential phenomenon. What IS healthy, exactly? As of late, it seems ‘Healthy’ has evolved from having a clear, cut definition to becoming the most effective chameleon in the food industry.

In 2013, BuzzBack conducted a study on consumers’ perception of ‘Healthy’ and found that it was associated with words one would expect to see – active, exercise, balance, and happiness; with unique callouts to predictable descriptors such as ‘organic,’ ‘wholesome,’ and ‘natural’ within various markets. Still, it’s no surprise that the concept of ‘Healthy’ is most often associated with food – top healthy snacks across the globe included fruit, yogurt, nuts, and dried fruit.

But healthy snacks seem to be a catch-22 in itself. Eat more fruit – too much sugar. Cut out carbs – you’re left with no energy source. Low fat or Gluten-free? You end up consuming more sugar used to make up for lack of taste. Eat more nuts…but watch out for high fat content!

This seems kind of nutty…

Last month, KIND bar fanatics were hit with some conflicting news – their snacks aren’t healthy. At least, they’re not FDA-approved healthy. The Food and Drug Administration had contacted the manufacturer, notifying them that their popular fruit and nut snack is not, in fact, in line with their healthy regulations at all. According to the FDA, a “healthy snack food” cannot exceed 3g of Total Fat or 1g of saturated fat per serving. The bars in question – four flavors in particular – contain up to 5 g of saturated fat.

When looking at a nutrition label, seeing 5g of saturated fat right off the bat might generate a red flag for the average consumer.  It’s here where things get a little subjective. Sure, there’s a high amount of fat in this food product – but should we be paying more attention to the amount of fat, or where it’s coming from? The first ingredient(s) in any of KIND’s products are nuts.


Personally, I believe the only healthy cliché that has proven resolute over the years and within every food fad is ‘moderation is key.’

We forget that overdoing anything – whether it’s eating (‘healthy’ food is still food), sleeping, or even exercising – is unhealthy. Sure, snacking on dried fruit is better than grabbing a bag of chips – but not if you’re swallowing buckets of the stuff. And sure, chomping through a bowl of nuts is a healthier option than going through a bag of candy, but you do need to look out for high fat.

It’s all about balance, right? Healthy means balance – a balance throughout all aspects of life, including what you’re eating.

‘Claimsbait’ – What Can We Learn from BuzzFeed to Help Develop Better Claims?

BuzzFeed measure the success of their content by what people click on.  This real-time behaviour is driven by a raw emotional connection to the headline of the content, so how people respond is individual and unpredictable.  With their simple one-dimensional measure, BuzzFeed establish a direct link between appeal and performance: the greater the appeal of the clickbait, the better the performance of the content.

There is learning to be had here with how researchers approach the evaluation of more emotional claims. Current methods of evaluation may be more of a handicap than a help, as they force respondents to wear a ‘rational hat’ in an emotional context. For example, when we are exploring the Beauty category, we often focus on rational, factual things – claims about shiny hair or reduced split ends – whereas if we test the emotional and esoteric (“It makes me feel good” or “makes me smile”), these claims fall flat.  But is this actually the fault of the claims, or the fault of the standard methods by which they are measured? Is there something to be learned from Buzzfeed’s emotional clickbait?

Just like clickbait, the questions we ask must allow for an emotional response in themselves, and allow for intrigue without necessarily providing complete understanding. So we need to give emotional claims a level playing field and an opportunity to succeed.  By asking better questions, we will free our responders to better understand the most compelling emotional ideas for a brand’s positioning and messaging.

Color Wars: International Reactions to Artificial Dyes

Recently the issue of artificial versus natural dyes came to my attention as a mother and it got me wondering why more companies aren’t jumping on this “natural” claims opportunity.

It all began when I noticed an interesting update in my Facebook newsfeed.  It was from a health conscious mom who blogs about whipping up unprocessed meals for her family (100 days of Real Food). This particular post took issue with artificial dyes found in many U.S. foods and the possible link between those dyes and behavioral problems in children. Apparently this has been an ongoing debate for some time without any hard evidence to actually sway the FDA to take action. However, that’s not the case everywhere. I was surprised to learn that in 2010 the European Union approved policy that states manufacturers must display this warning label on the product if artificial dyes are used:

“May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”

Rather than using this alarming message on their packages, many companies have opted to switch to natural coloring instead.

Since then, I’ve noticed this topic popping up beyond my newsfeed, on The Today Show and The Huffington Post. As consumers increasingly reach for products that are more natural and healthy, some U.S. companies are even being proactive.  Kraft just announced they would stop using artificial dyes in 3 kid-friendly macaroni and cheese products for 2014.

This got me wondering about which foods in my house contain artificial dyes and if I needed to start monitoring these with my 3 year old. Then I remembered the Goldfish®, her beloved go-to snack.

Goldfish Colorsrounded

I used to only buy the Original Goldfish® crackers. But during our annual summer beach trip with a few other families, my daughter discovered what she calls “the rainbow Goldfish®.” A conversation started up among the adults about the ingredient list: beet juice, paprika, turmeric, huito and watermelon. Nope, the adults couldn’t taste the beets or the watermelon! Ha! I think they were confused. These weren’t flavors but rather natural colorants. But what is so surprising to me is that this claim isn’t front and center on their packaging but tucked away on the side! Look at the picture that I took. The message on the front simply reads, “Colors. Baked with real cheese.”

How many more parents would choose this product if they knew it didn’t contain suspect artificial dyes? All of this reminded me that it’s quite difficult to get a new or alternative product on someone’s radar. Marketing consultant, Jack Trout wrote in his book, Differentiate or Die: Survival In Our Era of Killer Competition, that American families repeatedly buy the same 150 items, constituting as much as 85% of their household needs. Homing in on unique and meaningful product claims can raise awareness to other products for consideration. Our most recent webinar on claims research underscores how important it is to know your objectives in order to crack the claim code. Are you trying to find something unique about your product? Claims are important because they can help companies differentiate and can impact brand and product perceptions. Which is exactly what happened with me! I never once thought of buying the rainbow Goldfish before, but now that I know they are made with natural colors they’ll definitely be on my Mom-approved Snack List from now on!


Consumers’ Embrace of ‘Natural’ Drives Product Packaging and Repositioning

In case you missed it, there was an article in Fast Company that reported how 3 brands (Lean Cuisine, Vlassic Pickles, and Dole Fruit) applied some rethinking to their product offerings in response to the increasing quest by consumers for more natural foods. Through line extensions and repackaging, the brands sought to shed the negative associations of processed and preserved foods.

This move is completely in line with BuzzBack’s recent exploratory study on ‘Natural’. Natural is an important platform for a range of categories – from foods to personal care to shoes and more! Interestingly enough, all these products fell into the areas where consumers told us that being Natural was most important: fruits/vegetables and meat/poultry. A focus on packaging was also a smart move, as participants in our study say it’s the top information source for learning about or discovering natural products. Consumers also told us that when deciding whether to buy a natural product, the most important claims center around ingredients being natural, organic, unrefined and unprocessed. For more info on consumers’ associations around Natural, click here to request our free white paper.