ALEXANDRIA, VA — In the latest American Bakers Association (ABA) Member Research Webinar, attendees got an inside look on research from French yeast manufacturer Lesaffre and full-service marketing insights agency C + R Research regarding how consumers view clean label goods.

Led by Bill Hanes, VP of marketing and strategy at Lesaffre, and Nancy Baum, senior research director at C+R Research, the webinar explored who clean label consumers are and identified considerations for clean label applications.

In the pursuit of cementing an internal definition of “clean label,” Lesaffre sponsored a series of research to find additional information on consumers’ perception of the term, ingredients and more.

Baum shared the three key objectives behind the research.

“The first was to identify consumer’s perceptions of clean label ingredients and baked goods.” Baum said. “Second was to identify their perceptions around yeast and yeast extracts and how that fits into their definition of clean label. And third was to understand how certain food ingredient trends, specifically around clean labeling, non-GMO and organic, could impact their decisions at the shelf.”


The study was conducted over two phases: qualitative and quantitative.

In the qualitative stage, researchers conducted ethnographic shop-alongs in late January 2020 in both and Dallas. Researchers visited consumers in their homes to discuss their perceptions about health and nutrition followed by a trip to the consumers’ preferred grocery store.

“We also conducted focus groups to further refine our learnings and build hypotheses around ingredients and packaging claims in that first phase,” Baum said. These focus groups were conducted in both Chicago and Philadelphia.

The second phase focused on a 15-minute survey to over 1,300 bread purchasers to “create a profile of a clean label consumer.”

The general consensus is that clean label is a food product that’s free from preservatives and additives with ingredients considered natural through recognizable words. However, Baum noted that the term “clean label” is not one used by consumers. Rather than call themselves “clean label shoppers,” consumers describe themselves as people trying to eat healthier or more balanced. The phrase “clean eating,” while newer and less popular with the older crowd, most associates the term in relation to ingredients in food.

When it comes to clean label products, the research revealed a distinction in attitudes and behaviors between generations: Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Boomers.


Gen Z’s are more likely to look for locally sourced ingredients (44%) and pay more for organic food (48%) than older generations. However, they are more likely to agree that they can eat whatever they want (37%) with less regard for weight and health consequences (30%).

Millennials eat with their health in mind and are more likely than other generations to manage caloric intake (37%) and see food as a fuel source (38%). They are similar to Gen Z in their interest in locally sourced ingredients (44%) and willingness to pay more for organic food (56%). Baum noted that this trend falls in line with young families prioritizing nutrition for their children.

Gen X is most likely to reject giving up junk food (55%), which Baum attributes to them having teens in their homes. In contrast to younger generations, this group is less likely to pay more for organic food (44%) or to try plant-based products (41%).

When it comes to their eating habits, Boomers are most likely to say they will not change their eating habits based on food trends (71%) with a mindset that prioritizes flavor (62%).


When it comes to bread, the most important characteristic to consumers is having a taste they like (92%). Other top characteristics include having a desirable crust, soft texture, being made with whole grains and having simple, recognizable ingredients.

This distinction continues into the bread aisles. Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to shop the bakery section than the bread aisle in comparison to older generations. Boomers shop the bread aisle the most out of all the generations.

The dietary habits of generations bleed into their bread purchasing habits, with Boomers more likely to buy from the bread aisle than younger generations who prefer the bakery section. Whatever part of the store consumers choose to get their bread from, brand and visual cues are often as important as what is on the label. Visual elements like the appearance of the product, nutrition transparency and less packaging or packaging that appears recyclable signal trust to consumers.

“To summarize, consumers want natural, familiar ingredients that they can understand,” Hanes said.

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