18 December 2015

Here’s a new way to eat in two words: 5 ingredients.

On award-winning food writer Michael Pollan’s "7 Rules for Eating"—which were first published in his 2009 bestselling book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto--it’s rule no. 2. His ideas helped spur the clean eating movement, and now food and beverage producers, from the biggest baby food brands to cutting edge restaurants to avant-garde breweries, are catching up.

And for good reason, for as more Americans follow the trend, they are reading labels and selecting products with fewer ingredients and ones they recognize. Or, as Pollan’s rules also note, they look for foods that don’t contain anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food or ingredients you can’t pronounce. That’s why some companies, now in the vanguard, are putting simplicity first.

Beech-Nut recently began paring down its ingredients and using a cold extraction process to make some baby foods. The company is responding to the strong decline in demand for premade baby food in general, down by $450 million from $1.9 billion within the past seven years as Millennial moms make their own to reduce additives and preservatives, according to Yahoo! Finance and CNBC.

Omni Hotels and Resorts also experienced success after they shifted their drinks menu away from multi-ingredient cocktails to simpler options. Traditional drinks such as martinis, mules and manhattans found greater appeal among consumers.

Even fast food stores are jumping on board, showing that this movement may become more than a passing trend. Nation’s Restaurant News reports new options tend to be basics targeted to consumers who want to keep it simple. Hardee’s, for example, recently released a 5-ingredient chicken filet sandwich consisting of a bun, filet, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.

Some consumers who apply the 5-ingredient rule are following the clean eating trend, whose definition varies depending on whom you ask. One dietician, whose column appeared on CNN.com, described clean eating as sticking to whole foods and avoiding foods with unnatural additives. In some cases, these consumers are choosing natural foods, a trend we previously discussed.

How to appeal to clean eating consumers?
  1. Clearly label products. Make it easy for consumers to understand what is in products, especially healthful ingredients. Use layman’s terms whenever possible. For more, read about FDA’s proposed labeling changes.
  2. Offer products that blend function and flavor. Functional foods and nutraceuticals appeal to shoppers who seek nutritional options that give them sustained levels of energy along with appealing flavors.
  3. Consider reformulating existing products. Does the product still need the preservatives? Is it possible to remove preservatives or extra sugar by changing the packaging to aseptic cartons, for example?
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