In the newly-launched R&D Roundtable video series, employees from various departments discuss the latest trends for texture and stability solutions within the food and beverage industries. The first episode of the series highlights industry regulations and challenges surrounding clean-label.


Videos in the Food R&D Roundtable Series

Part I

Clean Labeling [this video] (runtime 12:10)

Part II

Ingredient Replacement (runtime 9:50)

Part III

Organic Foods (runtime 4:40)

Part IV

Future of Hydrocolloids (runtime 5:09)

Part V

Hydrocolloid Benefits (runtime 7:19)

Part VI

Food Industry Developments (runtime 5:18)


Matt Patrick: Welcome everyone. Thanks for joining us for TIC Gum Hydrocolloid Roundtable. To start off with, I'd like to introduce all of you to our audience. We have Dan Grazaitis, Karen Constanza and Steve Baker. All three are scientists in TIC's R&D Department. We've got Mike Flemmens who heads up the research group, Matt O'Connor that heads up the procurement group and Blair Brown that heads up the regulatory team. What we're going to do today is chat through just a few broad concepts that are showing up in the marketplace and really interested in hearing your candid comments based on your experience on any and all of these subjects. The first topic is a trend that has been around for a little while, it's still getting a lot of traction, and it really seems to have a lot of staying power and that's this idea of clean label. So we're going to spend the next few minutes talking about what clean label is and what your experiences are in the marketplace with clean label. Dan, I think I'll start off with you. What's going on in the world of clean label right now?

Dan Grazaitis: Clean label is little been interesting compared to some of the other trends like GMOs and gluten frees. It doesn't really have any regulations around it so there are really no guidelines. It's kind of more consumer perception on what they feel is clean label. Every consumer is a little bit different so you kind of don't actually know what they want until you get it out there.

Matt Patrick: So do you find different customers coming to TIC Gums with different interpretations of clean label and different needs around clean label?

Dan Grazaitis: Definitely. Some people look at clean label as minimal ingredients; we only want five ingredients on a label, nothing more, nothing less. They kind of have it marked out that's their market they're going for. And other people just want recognizable ingredients. I want my customers to know what you're putting in a product and what it does, nothing extra. Yeah, every customer is going to have a little bit different feel and a little different approach on how they'd take clean label.

Matt Patrick: So do you find that customers find all the various hydrocolloids to have a clean label name or a clean label friendly name or are there some products that are preferred to others?

Dan Grazaitis: As far as hydrocolloids go, that's probably the biggest challenge for us as a company. Our gums tends not to have the most desirable names to consumers here in the U.S. A lot of it comes from overseas, seaweeds, things that people aren't really familiar with and the names can be a little intimidating. So we have a lot of names like guar gum, gum acacia, carrageenans, a lot of people get a little nervous when they see the label. Learn more about the sources of gums and hydrocolloids

Matt Patrick: Maybe I'll interrupt you here. Not everybody an audience may know where these various gums come from. So could you take some examples, maybe the gums you just mentioned and just briefly describe where they come from and then we can kind of factor that into our clean label discussion.

Dan Grazaitis: Yeah. So carrageenan for one is one that you always see gets some bad publicity on the market and it does have a kind of weird name, carrageenan. But really it came from a town off of Ireland and they've been using it for years to thicken soups. The seaweed washes up on shore and they use it.

Matt Patrick: So it's from seaweed, it's isolated from seaweed. Yep.

Dan Grazaitis: And there are a lot of other seaweed gums from all over the world but they've been using them for hundreds of years for different reasons and now we're taking it and refining it and putting it into foods. And things like gum acacia which comes from Africa is really just a tree sap. It's cleaned up a little bit. But they've been using it again for years for glues, food uses, thickeners. So a lot of these products are commonly used in other areas of the world like guar gums in Indian, they use it to thicken soups and make foods over there all the time. And now we're bringing it over here and a lot of people don't recognize what that is on the label.

Matt Patrick: Okay. So Blair, do you run into any confusion or any issues that customers have approaching us around the concept of clean label?

Blair Brown: Definitely. For regulatory, one of the big things that customers seek out when we talk about clean label is natural and this can be kind of tricky because the FDA doesn't have an established definition for what natural is. The USDA does and some other countries do, but this can be a problem when you're trying to define an FDA regulated product. Read our statements regarding natural status and non-GMO products

Matt Patrick: I think it's a pretty common conversation topic around the unclarity of what natural means. Would you say that the unclarity around clean label is of equivalent size to the debate around natural?

Blair Brown: Definitely. I think it all comes back to what Dan was saying about the customer's perception. So as food manufacturers, you kind of have to identify who your target audience is and what does your consumer want or what are they looking for when they say they want a product that's all natural or that has a clean label. So that can often be challenging.

Matt Patrick: Matt, is the clean label trend driving you to source materials in a way differently than you have over the past few years or is it just part and parcel of what you do every day?

Mat O'Connor: I think it's primarily part and parcel of what we do every day. As a company, we don't really buy anything until we've been to the factory and see where it comes from. But I do think the challenge with consumers is most of our ingredients you can't buy in a supermarket so they aren't really educated on what these different products are.

Matt Patrick: I'm curious. If you know that you have a customer with a formulation issue and if they want that formulation problem solved with a clean label ingredient, do you feel like it narrows down the toolbox you have? Are there some ingredients that are really good for formulating clean label and other ingredients that are harder to use in clean label from a functionality point of view?

Dan Grazaitis: Yeah, I definitely think just due to the naming. Even if it's a natural product, what we consider natural or something that's going to work very well in that product, if the name doesn't go with what the customer wants, we have to work around it. It makes it difficult and that's really why we're trying to get the education down and get people to understand where these gums come from. Very important.

Matt Patrick: So, same question in terms of applications. Are there some applications that are really hard to do clean label and some applications that are easy to do clean label?

Dan Grazaitis: That's a good question.

Matt Patrick: Anybody.

Steven Baker: I mean, it really depends on the application and what the customer is asking for. In some cases like carrageenan, it is very functional in terms of dairy products. We consider it natural but the customers say, well, we don't like carrageenan and carrageenan is so specific and so functional in these kinds of applications that it's very difficult to formulate around it.

Matt Patrick: If you were to get a product from a variety of different categories, some categories automatically have a pretty small ingredient statement and it's pretty easy to see the individual ingredients, like a beverage, maybe. Then if you go to the other extreme like a bakery product where traditionally the ingredient statement is several lines long, for something like a bakery product that has a very long ingredient statement, do you have a little more flexibility in how you manage the clean label question or is it just as challenging?

Steven Baker: Well, I think it is somewhat challenging because in bakery the number of ingredients has been attacked one by one, most likely with ADA being attacked at Subway. But previously, they would attack potassium bromates, then they start taking out datem, monoglycerides, other oxidants. So the toolbox is getting smaller and smaller for what we can do in terms of formulation. And depending on the customer, we can get away with some guar gum, we can do some xanthan gum but some people may say we don't want xanthan gum. We don't want some modified celluloses where they could be very functional. It really depends on the customer.

Matt Patrick: So you're pretty careful up front to define what they mean by clean label, that helps you define what your toolbox is and then you go from there?

Steven Baker: Yeah, it's always good to get customer input before you start.

Mike Flemmens: Part of the challenge is managing the expectations of the customer because many times there's not an application that you can't achieve with a clean label product, but you may not be able to replicate the customer's vision of the gold standard product. So you may be able to effectively manufacture a dairy beverage without carrageenan. But you may not be able to achieve the exact same level of performance without it.

Matt Patrick: Okay. So there are lots of tools available for formulating clean label, but still in many cases there might need to be a discussion around tradeoffs in going to a clean label solution. Well, what do you all think? Do you feel like the clean label trend is in fact the trend, it's going to carry on in the future, or is it a trend that was really a fad that is going to fade away? What's your gut tell you about where the clean label trend is going?

Dan Grazaitis: I think the clean label trend is going to be here for a little bit, whereas a fad, I don't think it's going to run out in the next year or two. So I think it is something you've got to look forward to and prepare for and really just try and educate the consumers on want we're providing, why we're providing it. I think they really just want to know like with the bakery industry with the big long label why is everything in there. Because before it was just showing up. People are like bakery, maybe it's flour, some sugar, some water, some used, why are there 50 ingredients on my doughnut now. They really want to know what's going in there and why. So I think if you get the education down, they're more open to accept more ingredients. They want to make sure it's in there for a reason and it's not just putting stuff in there.

Matt Patrick: Okay. Any different views?

Blair Brown: No I agree with Dan. I think that there's always going to be certain segments of the market and certain consumers who would prefer clean label. I think that it might not be a really growing trend or there might not be a huge place for it in a market but I think it's here to stay.

Matt Patrick: You don't think the whole food industry will go clean label at some point.

Blair Brown: Not necessarily, but I think there will always be some consumers who want as few ingredients as possible.

Mat O'Connor: Dan, I think, brought up a good point, it's there is an onus I think on the food industry to educate consumers more because I think a lot of their thoughts are based on working in their own kitchen where they're much more limited in what they have access to than the food industry at whole. And gums particularly are things people haven't heard of, don't understand, and assume because they haven't heard of it that it's not a clean label.

Video: Food R&D Roundtable