Clean Label Starch—Just Another Fad Or A Billion-Dollar Opportunity?

Friday, April 17th, 2020

As food & beverage manufacturers continue to centre their innovations around consumer demand for minimally processed products with short ingredient statements, the application scope of clean label starch has been on a significant rise. By Nandini Roy Choudhury, Senior Research Consultant working with Future Market Insights (FMI).

Modern consumers perceive recognisable food and beverage ingredients as healthier. As such, overhauling ingredient lists is becoming a commonplace. Amidst demand for transparency, sustainability, and responsibility, consumers today are on the journey of exploring food with natural or minimally processed ingredients. The trend of clean label, in turn, continues to defy gravity and is becoming a key parameter in F&B formulations. Spanning every category from frozen vegetables to on-the-go food products, clean label has taken the F&B industry by storm and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Consumers are increasingly willing to know what’s in their food, which is bringing monumental shifts in manufacturers’ choices of ingredients. Today, in addition to flavour and colour, texture plays a pivotal role in determining success or failure of any new food product in the marketplace. Owing to its textural properties, starch continues to remain a preferred gelling agent among food manufacturers. However, will modern starch fulfil consumers’ quest for clean label? What are manufacturers doing to remove the additive ‘modified food starch’ from the label?


Leveraging Naturally Sourced Raw Material As A Step Change In Innovation

As aversion of consumers towards synthetic or artificial food ingredients has been evident. Replacement of chemically modified starch is currently the focal point of starch manufacturers, for which they are leveraging several natural starch sources such as rice, corn, potato, and tapioca. Such a strategic move, in recent years, has been empowering manufacturers to meet increased demand for cleaner labels while offering a similar functionality to their conventional counterparts. These aspects played a significant role in Ingredion’s decision to launch NOVATION Lumina functional native starches in Europe and Middle East & Africa, recently in May 2019. Developed using the company’s proprietary technology, the new product range can be labelled as corn starch. This lineup by the company would perfectly align with the natural and clean label trend.


How Will Starch Manufacturers Win, With Clean Label In Routine Convenience Products?

Amidst the meteoric proliferation of clean label making it harder for the better-for-you options to stand out, the demand for every-day convenient products is on an upswing. So where is the future of clean label starch heading?

Numerous verticals of food industry are transforming their ingredient lists at a rapid pace. Convenience is another major factor that continues to influence the dynamics of food industry. A growing number of consumers today rely on ready meals, grab-and-go entrees, and meal kits to get food on the table, faster than ever. However, at the same time, they prefer ingredients that are recognisable. Such an evolving trend wave is compelling manufacturers to be on their toes to more effectively cater to demands of their consumers.

Au courant with prevailing landscape and possessing a strong portfolio of food texturisers, Ingredion recently brought another label-friendly starch to the market, specifically targeting its application inconvenience foods. In July 2019, the company announced the launch of a clean label, tapioca-based co-texturising agent for instant high-water, dry powder mix. Its key applications are in instant soups and hot drinks. Once proven difficult for clean label formulation, the new Novation Indulge 3620 starch is set to help manufacturers reformulating instant products prepared with hot water to have low sugar and fat content.


How Is Organic Influencing The Clean Label Starch Space?

Organic food, a supposedly premium category, has moved beyond its selective affluent consumer demographic. It has gradually become the choice of several middle class consumers, particularly millennials. The impact of this trend has also been noticeable in the clean label starch market. In addition to offering native specialty starches and functional native starches, manufacturers are entering the organic sphere to attract and retain new consumer segments. Moreover, the market for physically modified starch as a clean label ingredient in organic and healthier foods has been witnessing a significant growth rate in recent times. With total sales of clean label starch reaching US$1.4 billion in 2019, manufacturers are centering their focus on organic variants to set their products apart from the competition. Two of Ingredion’s organic-certified corn starch ingredients – Novation Prima 309 and 609 starches (launched in 2018) continue to be trendsetters, influencing other manufacturers to follow suit and invest in this category. Similarly, MGP Ingredients Inc. addresses a myriad of clean label attributes such as certified organic, no chemical modification, and sulphite-free, through their lineup of starches.

Decoding Role Of Technologies In Clean Label Starch Development

Efficient physical modification techniques of starch involve a combination of temperature, pressure, moisture, and sheer. As the demand for desired texture and tenderness, moisture-control capabilities, and enhanced shelf-life continues to get critical, starch manufacturers are increasing their investments in new technologies. For instance, Tate & Lyle uses its proprietary CLARIA technology for its CLARIA Functional Clean-Label Starches that helps the end product develop a neutral colour, additionally exhibiting improved sensory attributes over other functional clean label starches.

The concept of developing a technology for modified starch formulation while aligning with new trends is not new. In December 2015, Cargill, Incorporated filed a patent for a technical process to develop its C☆CreamTex 06329, a modified waxy maze starch. The unique starch solution claims to reduce 50 percent  fat with minimal impact on the taste and mouthfeel.


The Current & Future Prospects Of Clean Label Starches In Market

As food & beverage manufacturers continue to center their innovations around consumer demand for minimally processed products with short ingredient statements, the application scope of clean label starch has been on a significant rise. While dairy and bakery remain the key focus areas, manufacturers are also eying profits in rapidly expanding categories, including convenience foods, soups, sauces, and dressings.

However, one of the most difficult conundrums in clean label movement is the ‘cost’ factor. Moreover, considering a number of barriers created by the regulatory hurdles, lead times, and capacity, the implementation of clean label supply is far from achieving. These challenges continue to restrict clean label starch manufacturers from strengthening their foothold in low and mid-income countries of Asia Pacific, Latin America, and Middle East & Africa.


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