Transparency, Trust, Authenticity & Clean Labeling?

This guest post is courtesy of Doug Baker, Vice President, Private Brands & Technology, Food Marketing Institute.

Coming Clean About Clean Labeling

Customization and personalization – these are two words that have become everyday vernacular in the food retail industry. Years ago, brand owners found that their customers were content with options, but now choice has expanded to require more intuition on behalf of the grocer.

The nimbleness of our industry to observe a trend, and responsibly capitalize on it, is witnessed in every aisle. Gluten-free; low-carb and low–fat products; artisanal and culinary lines that relate to global palates; and seasonal produce that can be sourced all year are just a few examples of how food retailers respond to their customers. There now exists an opportunity to relate to shoppers’ desires for holistic health and offer solutions that meet their wellness lifestyle through the professed “clean eating” trends.

Our FMI Private Brand Council singled out the trend in clean eating due to consumer’s yearning for transparency, trust, authenticity and integrity in the food system. Still, we recognize that there are numerous inconsistencies relevant to the clean label phenomenon:

  1. The term lacks a uniform definition, but nevertheless retailers and suppliers are embracing it;
  2. Some consumers view these products as better-for-you, healthier and even safer than mainstream items, even though these views aren’t necessarily backed up by science;
  3. Consumers want added levels of transparency, but simpler lists of ingredients; and
  4. Different generations of consumers often seek different attributes in clean label.

Recognizing these challenges, we felt the need to get honest with our own approach to clean-label marketing and commissioned a white paper to illuminate the trend for brand owners. Our intention was to encourage the identification of best practices in this quickly evolving area and so we produced the paper with Solutions 4 Retail Brands (S4RB), a consulting-led software business focused on boosting private brand performance.

As a guide, the white paper highlights new ways to connect shoppers with in-store resources, such as dietitians, fresh departments or recipes. As a brand, these connections can lead to greater trust by serving as a partner to navigate the latest eating craze.

To download the paper, visit the resources section of the private brands page at


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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.