Clean Label Ingredient Replacement for Baked Goods

Originally Published: October 6, 2020
Last Updated: February 4, 2021
Decorated cake featured in article on clean ingredient replacement for baked goods.

Clean Label Ingredient Replacement for Baked Goods

Consumers desire safe, simple and healthy food. While the FDA may not have a definition for what exactly counts as “clean label” products, consumers are asking to buy them. So how do you, as a food innovator, approach this clean trend? Lin Carson, Ph.D., Founder and CEO of BAKERpedia, explored different solutions in her presentation titled “Innovative Clean Label Ingredient Replacement Technologies for Baked Goods” that was recorded for the 2020 Clean Label Conference.

Before diving into solutions, however, Carson noted that at least 93% of U.S. households  have purchased a clean label product at a grocery store. Half of all shopping trips now include the purchase of a clean label product, according to Nielsen (

For a food producer, it means having a simple and short ingredient list that is easy to understand, as well as no chemicals, artificial preservatives, color agents or flavor agents. As Carson explained, it’s all about finding natural ingredients that create similar results. Here are some solutions for key aspects of the baking industry.

  • Colors and flavors: Artificial butter flavors are replaced by concentrated dairy products, buttermilk and even yeast-based extracts. For artificial fruit flavors, concentrated fruit powders work well. When using natural coloring products, gel versions work best to avoid diluting your system and affecting viscosity and flavor.
  • Emulsifiers: Mono- and diglycerides and PGME are the industry standard, and there is really no alternative yet that is as process-friendly. However, look into alpha-cyclodextrins for frostings. For cakes, canola or soy lecithin and wheat protein isolates have been known to replace emulsifiers.
  • Dough conditioners: DATEM and SSL are another tricky thing to replace. Vital wheat gluten and enzymes, like glucose oxidase, xylanase and phospholipase helps. Or, you can try aging your flour for up to 14 days or longer fermentation times.
  • Anti-mold ingredients: The key elements to prevent mold are sanitation and water activity. So, if removing artificial preservatives, humectants—such as sugar, honey and other ingredients (like salt and gums)—decrease water activity, thus less water is available for mold growth. For bread, alternative mold inhibitors to try are cultured wheat, whey with vinegar, prune and raisin concentrates, rosemary extract, cinnamon and clove. In yeasted products, naturally-obtained, encapsulated sorbic acid can replace potassium sorbate.
  • Other ingredients to add: There are a few ingredients that fit well into multiple clean label applications. For example, enzymes can act as a natural alternative for many ingredients and functions. A few ways they help formulas include improving flour quality and emulsification; and increasing water absorption and the machinability of the dough. Enzyme and ascorbic acid blends have been used to replace potassium bromate, ADA, DATEM and SSL.

Starches are another option. Mechanically pregelatinized starch is used to replace chemically modified starch and dextrin. The various modifications also provide viscosity and, therefore, increase the stability of networks that were previously supported by emulsifiers. Fibers and gums also have a wide range of function roles and can be clean label.

While these ingredients are reliable short-term solutions, here are other ways to clean up your label through process, as well. A few options to look into are:

  •  Sponge and dough systems can naturally hydrate your dough to make it easier to machine.
  •  Stress-free dough-handling systems may be lower in speeds, but they are effective in eliminating many dough conditioners.
  • Thermal profiling your system and targeting a longer bake- out will help dry out the baked product and reduce mold issues.

In the end, it’s all about knowing what role ingredients play in your formulas and finding natural alternatives that fill the same role. Pay attention to all aspects of your process and where other ingredients and adjusted ratios can carry the weight. It seems the clean label trend is here to stay. So, we’ll just keep finding innovative solutions.

“Innovative Clean Label Ingredient Replacement Technologies for Baked Goods,” Lin Carson, Ph.D., Founder and CEO of BAKERpedia

This presentation was given at the 2020 Clean Label Conference. To download presentations from this event, go to

See past and future Clean Label Conference Events at