Clean Label Trends: 2015-2016

Originally Published: October 10, 2016
Last Updated: February 4, 2021

Clean Label Trends: 2015-2016 covers diverse consumer interests ranging from sustainability of food supply, transparency (what exactly are they eating and where did it come from), “back to nature” foods like non-GMOs and/or are less processed and that contain few ingredients that are “non-synthetic.” Global Food Forums has looked at trend lists from the last several years and has highlighted items that point to the clean label trend.

We have marked with a “” predictions that specifically address interest in less processed, fewer labeled and non-synthetic ingredients…the foundation for our “Clean Label Conferences.”


Original Source: “The Next Kale? The Foods You’re Going To Be Hearing About Constantly In 2016by Alexandra Duron at The Thirillist (Posted January 4, 2016).

  • Waste-based cooking — …70 billion pounds of food go to waste each year. Earlier this year, it was impossible to ignore the buzz about wasted, a community of chefs, farmers, and other members of the foods world who work to cook up something delicious out of unused or “un-coveted” food.
  • Baobab — Fruit from the baobab tree — eight of the nine species are native to Madagascar and mainland Africa, so you can just get ahead of the economic backlash that accompanied quinoa’s sudden rise in demand — is rich in vitamin C.
  • Moringa — Native to Africa and Asia, it’s pretty versatile, and perhaps most important in an ever-warming world, it’s drought resistant and can actually purify water (along with an absolute treasure trove of other benefits).

Original Source: Four clean label items from the list “Whole Foods Market’s Top 10 Food Trends for 2016 (Posted December 21, 2015)

  • Uncommon meat and seafood—Lesser-known meat and seafood options are making their way from restaurant menus and local obscurity into mainstream American kitchens.
  • Plant-based everything—Plants are playing a meatier role in a surprising number of products, and not just for vegan and vegetarian alternatives.
  • Graze Craze: Grass-fed 2.0—With new grass-fed products– from milk, eggs, yogurt, butter and cheese options to packaged meat snacks and even protein powders – sprouting up across the store, grass-fed has proven it’s no longer a niche category for health fanatics or Paleo devotees.
  • Alternative and wheat-free flours—People are going nuts for gluten-free flours made from legumes, ancient grains, teff, amaranth and, well, nuts. Chickpea flour is a quick riser, while other legume-based flours are showing up in bean-based pastas and other packaged goods.

Original Source: “Popular Nutrition Trends for 2016 from the magazine Today’s Dietitian. Compiled by Densie Webb, PhD, RD, freelance writer, editor, and industry consultant. (Posted December 2015)

  • Sprouted Grains: Our forecasters predict that they’ll become more mainstream. Sprouting…creates enzymes that make plant proteins, essential fatty acids, starches, and vitamins more available for absorption.
  • Full-Fat Dairy: “Now that people are starting to embrace more fat in their diets, I think we’ll continue to see more full-fat and reduced-fat (as opposed to fat-free) dairy products being used.” …A survey conducted by IRi…found that whole milk sales have gradually increased from 27.9% of the retail market in 2010 to 32.1% in 2015.
  • The Pluses of Pulses: The United Nations is so certain that pulses will peak in popularity that it has dubbed 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP). The aim of IYP 2016 is to heighten public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production, aimed towards food security and nutrition.
  • Relaxing Cholesterol Restrictions: …the 2015 DGAC, which reviews the latest research and makes recommendations for the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans, has for the first time taken a step back from the 300 mg/day rule. Whether or not dietary cholesterol in excess of [330mg/day] affects risk of coronary artery disease or risk of diabetes is still unclear.
  • Renewed Push for Protein: Researcher Douglas Paddon-Jones, PhD, FACSM, from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, says we can expect more research on the benefits of increased intakes of high-quality protein in middle-aged men and women.

Original Source: Three clean label related items from the list “Food Technology’s Top 10 Predictions for 2016” from Food Technology Magazine Editors. (Posted December 16, 2015)

  • Clean Labels Spread to Fine Dining This year was marked by tons of major food companies, in addition to fast-food and fast-casual restaurants, announcing the “healthification” of their menus through the banning of artificial ingredients/additives.
  • Cleaner Labels. More than ever, consumers are pushing food manufacturers to use ingredients to produce products with so-called clean labels. Ingredient manufacturers have stepped up and now offer ingredients that are naturally derived, minimally processed, organic, and not genetically modified—all of which food manufacturers use to formulate clean label products. ♦ Morally Conscious Foods. Increasing emphasis on conscious living will lead to a new category of foods—morally conscious foods.

Original Source: Two clean label items from the list “10 Trends in Health & Wellness.” Recapping Hartman A.C.T. Health & Wellness 2015 (Posted November 3, 2015 online)

  • Health, wellness and sustainability are starting to converge at the most progressive food retail and food service outlets
  • Today, through transparency, health and wellness is converging with sustainability

Original Source: Comax 2016 Flavor Trends. (Posted November 30, 2015 in a Comax Press Release) For a more complete explanation of each trend, please see the press release.

  • Green Goodness As part of the health and wellness lifestyle trend, consumers are looking for natural, less processed, better-for-you products. Naturally, consumers are gravitating toward green vegetables and fruits, putting them in the limelight. Flavors in this group include: • Avocado Pear • Broccoflower • Green Jackfruit • Jalapeño Honey

Original Source: Five clean label related items from the list Innova Market Top Ten Trends Insights for 2016. (Posted November 17, 2015 on Food Ingredients 1st website

  • Organic Growth for Clear Label: “Clear label” established itself as a key trend in 2015, with greater transparency and the focus on simpler products with fewer artificial additives taking “clean label” to the next level.
  • Free From For All: Many consumers don’t actually need products that are free from gluten, wheat and dairy, but are demanding them anyway, as they believe them to be healthier.
  • The “Flexitarian” Effect: The rise of part-time vegetarians, who have reduced their meat consumption because of health, sustainability and animal welfare concerns, is having a major impact on new product activity.
  • Processing the Natural Way: Established food processing practices that have been around for centuries are in the spotlight. They bring with them a natural and authentic image to counteract some of the negative perceptions of heavily processed foods.
  • Creating a “Real” Link: “Real” is about telling a story about where the product comes from and goes beyond certification alone.

Original Source: Technomic’s Take: 2016 Food Trends (Technomic Press Release dated October 26, 2016) Technomic’s consultants and experts base their annual predictions on site visits in trendsetting cities plus interviews and surveys of operators and consumers, backed up by qualitative data from Technomic’s vast Digital Resource Library and quantitative menu data from its searchable MenuMonitor online database.

  • Trash to treasure. Rising prices for proteins raise the profiles of under-utilized stewing cuts, organ meats and “trash” species of fish—but the “use it all” mindset has also moved beyond the center of the plate. How about a veggie burger made with carrot pulp from the juicer?
  • Negative on GMOs. Whatever the science says, many consumers have made up their minds: no genetic tinkering with their food. Some diners will gravitate to restaurants touting GMO-free fare; others will demand GMO labeling on menus. That’s a big issue for the supply chain, since many crops (such as soy fed to livestock) have been modified to boost productivity.

Original Source: The National Restaurant Association’s 2016 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast. (National Restaurant Association, posted November 5, 2015, from ACF’s hottest menu trends. )

  • Locally sourced meats and seafood
  • Locally grown produce
  • Hyper-local sourcing
  • Natural ingredients/minimally processed food
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Sustainable seafood
  • House-made/artisan ice cream
  • Fresh/house-made sausage
  • House-made/artisan pickles
  • Food waste reduction/management

Original Source: Mintel Identifies Global Food and Drink Trends for 2016Posted by Mintel, October 19, 2016

  • Artificial: Public Enemy No. 1: Consumer demands for natural and “less processed” food and drink are forcing companies to remove artificial ingredients.
  • Based on a True Story: Consumers have been romanced by product origin, ingredients, or inspiration stories.
  • Diet by DNA: Interest in natural and “getting back to basics” has boosted ancient grains and superfoods, fostering a principle that age-old staples are better than today’s manufactured options.


Original Source: Three clean label related items from the list “Innova Market Insights’ Top 10 Food and Beverage Trends” likely to impact the food industry in 2015 and beyond

  • From Clean to Clear Label: Clean label claims are tracked on nearly a quarter of all food and beverage launches, with manufacturers increasingly highlighting the naturalness and origin of their products. With growing concerns over the lack of a definition of ‘natural’, however, there’s a need for more clarity and specific details. Consumers, retailers, industry and regulators are all driving more transparency in labeling.
  • New Routes for Fruit: More product launches are being tracked with real fruit & vegetables, as they can function as coloring foodstuffs and in that role meet the increased demand for natural colors and flavors. Fruit and vegetable inclusions can add to the “permissible indulgence” character of a product. Consumers perceive a product to be healthier when it contains a real fruit or vegetable ingredient.
  • A Fresh Look at Frozen: In order to compete with the healthy appeal of fresh aisles and the convenience of canned foods, established frozen foods (vegetables and seafood) are focusing on freshness in their marketing, stressing the superior nutritional content in frozen food. Brand extensions include larger varieties in vegetables and fruits. At the same time the frozen segment is witnessing new product launch activity in new categories (e.g., soups, fruit, drinks, finger foods, sauces, pastries, herbs).

Original Source: 2015 Food Trends (from Technomic, Inc.) Predictions are based on Technomic research including consumer and operator surveys and site visits, backed up by data from its Digital Resource Library and vast MenuMonitor database.

  • Micro-local. The stay-close-to-home spirit heightens interest in everything from house-purified water to regional seafood to locally manufactured products like beers and liquors. Even as the supply chain consolidates, specialty and citywide distributors gain share. An “anti-chain” ethos prompts chains and multiconcept operators to debut quasi-independent restaurants fine-tuned to local market demands.

Original Source: 2015 Cutting-Edge Culinary Trends (from the Sterling-Rice Group)

  • The Ugly Fruit & Vegetable Movement: Misshapen and funny-looking produce will no longer get picked over as food resourcefulness and efforts to combat hunger come into sharper focus.

Original Source: One clean label related item found in the list “Trend Forecast: 10 Predictions for Specialty Foods in 2015” (from the Specialty Food Association)

  • Packaging Revolution: Food products have been experiencing a revolution for a few years now, and as shoppers become increasingly aware—and particular—about what they’re consuming, food labels will undergo a similar transformation to align with shifting expectations.

Original Source: What’s Hot? 2015 Culinary Forecast (from the National Restaurant Association) The NRA surveyed nearly 1,300 professional chefs – members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) – to find which foods, cuisines, beverages and culinary themes will be hot trends on restaurant menus in 2015. The following are a few clean label trends from an overall list of the top 20 food trends.

  • Locally sourced meats and seafood
  • Locally grown produce
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Natural ingredients/minimally processed food
  • Hyper-local sourcing
  • Sustainable seafood
  • Food waste reduction/management
  • House-made/artisan ice cream
  • Artisan cheeses

Original Source: Flavor Forecast 2015 (from McCormick) Now in its 15th year, the McCormick® Flavor ® is on the forefront of identifying top trends, and ingredients driving the future of flavor.

  • Umami Veggies: For a fresh way to savor the tempting “fifth taste,” look no further than naturally umami-rich veggies like mushrooms, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and nori.

Original Source: Two clean label items from the list “10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition & Health 2015” (from New Nutrition Business) The New Nutrition Business 10 Key Trends claims to be the only trend analysis dedicated to the business of food and health and the only one that will help you spot the difference between an enduring trend and a fad.

  • Naturally functional – the strongest foundation for success
  • Dairy 2.0 – making the most of dairy’s natural advantages

Original Source: International Agribusiness Predictions for 2015 (from Agribusiness Council of Australia Limited) Globally, although patchy, this will be the last decade where globalisation is perceived as a threat to current generations. In future decades, and with future generations, globalisation will just be accepted as a normal part of doing business. This will occur despite some rise in protectionism to prevent decline of in-country agribusiness development. World food prices will relentlessly rise in response to increasing population and declining agronomic resources.

What will increase?

  • City gardens, particularly vertical gardens
  • Grower-to-Consumer direct food sales
  • Locavore advocacy, but not practices
  • Organic farming

What will remain the same?

  • Food Wastage

What will decrease?

  • Profit margins at the farm gate (mostly in the developed world)

– By Roy Duncanson, Agribusiness Council of Australia Limited

We have marked with a “” predictions that specifically address interest in less processed, fewer labeled and non-synthetic ingredients…the foundation for our “Clean Label Conferences.”

Visit to see similar lists or more current time periods.