Presentation: Free-From at Retail: Lessons and Opportunities
Speaker: Carl Jorgensen, MSc, Director, Global Consumer Strategy – Wellness, Daymon Worldwide
At Daymon Worldwide Carl advises retailers, manufacturers and investors with thought leadership and subject matter expertise in Wellness, encompassing all phases of organic, natural, non-GMO, allergen-free, nutritional, sustainability and in-store wellness services.
He supported development of the Simple Truth brand at Daymon’s Kroger account, providing consumer insights, brand vision, sourcing, supplier relations and technical assistance.
Prior to joining Daymon Worldwide, Carl worked as a USDA-accredited organic certifier, an organic specialty food importer and distributor, an organic/non-GMO consultant, and was a founder of a food testing laboratory that offered the world’s first commercial test to detect GMOs in food products. He owned an organic farm in Iowa, and is active in local, regional and national organic agriculture initiatives as a member of the Organic Trade Association.
Carl has a BA from Penn State and an MS in Information Science from Drexel University. He received USDA ACA training in Washington, DC. In 2015 he completed the UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management Advanced Retail Strategy Program.
2016 Clean Label Conference
Free-From at Retail: Lessons and Opportunities
The growing concern about food safety has increased the clean label trend to publicize what food additives are not acceptable. “Free-from” lists are used by some retailers. One approach is to publish a list of specific ingredients not included in their private brands’ products. Another approach is to publish ingredient categories (e.g. synthetic colors) not used by their brands, which automatically covers many ingredients that may not be on consumers’ radar. This session will look at trends, advantages and disadvantages of some widely employed free-from strategies, and provide an understanding of the implications of the different approaches in helping to build successful programs at retail.
Further presentation details:
One approach to free-from taken by retailers for their own-brand programs is to publish a list of specific ingredients that are not used in their brands’ products. Kroger’s Simple Truth brand has a list of “101+” ingredients posted on the brand website.
The advantage of the detailed list approach is that is makes a very specific promise to the customer. The disadvantage is that it is impossible to satisfy everyone. There will always be ingredients not on the list that consumers have objections to. The list needs to be updated regularly as new ingredients are created by food technologists, and new ingredients come under the consumer spotlight.
The second most widely-employed free-from strategy is to publish a short list of ingredient categories that are not used in the retailer’s brands. These include artificial and synthetic ingredients, allergens, and specific ingredients that may generally be objected to by consumers, such as high fructose corn syrup. Trader Joe’s publicly posts a short list in many stores and online.
The advantage of the short list approach is that automatically covers many ingredients that may not yet be on consumers’ radar. The disadvantage is that it is open to interpretation: for example, is a specific ingredient truly synthetic?
Allergen-free is not necessarily a clean-label play; as allergen-free products often have artificial ingredients.
When a non-GMO claim is planned for a free-from program, it is important to understand the distinction between Non-GMO and GMO-free. Brand managers need to think carefully about the advantages and disadvantages of third-party certifications like the Non-GMO Project vs. self-certification, and understand what the organic non-GMO claim means. Brand managers also need to be aware of the pitfalls of calling out non-GMO on organic products in brands that also have non-organic products.
Free-from is an integral part of the clean label trend, which shows no signs of slowing down. Understanding the implications of different approaches to free-from will help to build successful programs at retail.