Bakers Journal

Food Protection and Clean-Label

January 28, 2021
By Bakers Journal

What does “clean label” mean in terms of meat pies, pizza and sandwiches for cafes and bakeries? | Q&a with brian nevin

Bakers Journal / Within the food and beverage industry, clean-label doesn’t have a strict definition. What does clean-label, specifically in meat mean for Kerry?

Brian Nevin / At Kerry, clean-label means using simple ingredients for safekeeping that consumers can recognize as being from natural sources, i.e., avoiding synthetic, chemical alternatives.

Consumers, seeking to remove artificial chemical ingredients, look for “free from” claims on product labels. In particular, nitrates and nitrites, traditionally used as meat preservatives, are increasingly viewed as “no-no” ingredients; instead, these consumers are seeking out meat that contains no artificial preservatives.

BJ/ What do you think of the clean-label trend in meat? What is driving this trend?

BN / Over the last few years, Kerry’s market research has found an acceleration in meat consumers actively working to eliminate unrecognizable and artificial ingredients from their diets by seeking products with cleaner, shorter labels. The outbreak of COVID-19 has accelerated this trend by creating feelings of vulnerability, leading consumers to view the foods they eat as an area of life over which they have some control. Many people have more time on their hands to read ingredient labels and research products.

BJ / Country-wise, in which markets do you see rising demand for “clean-label meat” and why?

BN / Consumers in every region of the world consider food safety a priority. Kerry, the world’s largest purveyor of clean-label food protection solutions, is able to deliver solutions that address complex food protection challenges without compromising on desired tastes, textures and colours over a product’s targeted shelf life.


BJ / Just within the meat sector, which categories would you say are leading the clean-label trends in Canada? (e.g., luncheon meat, hotdogs corned beef, etc.) 

BN / Kerry has found that processed meats that are pre-cooked and sold refrigerated, such as lunch meats, hot dogs, sausages, chicken balls, etc., are leading the meat sector’s clean-label trend.

BJ / What are the 3 biggest challenges for manufacturers when developing a clean-label meat product? 

BN / The first challenge is always food safety and shelf life. Around the world, food safety is top of mind; nowhere is this more evident than in meat production, where food safety is subject to widespread concerns about health and cost. However, replacing the food safety functionality of traditional artificial preservatives with consumer-friendly alternatives is a complex and multi-faceted challenge that requires a high level of expertise. Keeping food safe is much more than just preventing spoilage: it involves protecting flavour, texture and colour, as well as maintaining the overall quality of a final product over its shelf life. 

Taste is the second-largest challenge.  Primary consumer research indicates that the meaning of clean label is centred around “naturalness” (less processing, and removal of chemicals and preservatives), health (sodium, sugar and fat reduction), and food safety and security. 

BJ / Focusing on meat preservation, nitrites and nitrates are typically used as preservatives. What are some examples of clean-label preservatives that can replace these, and how do they work in extending shelf life?

BN /Accel™ is carefully produced through the fermentation of celery and offers similar functionality as nitrates/nitrites that ensure food safety by inhibiting pathogens such as listeria; enhancing colour development; maintaining sensory qualities; and delivering important shelf-life benefits. In addition, it allows for “natural” and “no artificial preservative” claims.

Consumer-friendly ingredients such as our Durafresh™ line are great building blocks for better shelf life, flavour and texture in meat application.

BJ / Taste also plays a big role in consumer purchase. In terms of taste, what are some ways of ensuring flavour without adding additives and artificial ingredients?

BN / The first step is in the development of simple, natural food protection technologies that have a minimal impact on taste. The industry is often accustomed to “building back” from the taste of some synthetic preservative solutions, so a more neutral starting point means fewer additions needed to perfect the product’s flavour. 

One of the benefits of being a taste and nutrition company is that Kerry has a broad portfolio of natural flavours that can be used built into our food protection systems to naturally elevate a product’s flavour. Natural smoke flavours, for instance, have been a popular addition; We work closely with our technical experts to leverage our natural smoke and grill flavours, distilling out targeted components to bring out the best taste in your product over its shelf life. Beyond this, Kerry is also able to build in modulation, natural flavours, and extracts in order to elevate taste while supporting sodium reduction, and therefore healthier products.   

Brian Nevin is the VP of Food Protection at Kerry 

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