clean label food bakery bread all natural AIB
Many commercial bakeries are responding to consumer concerns over ingredients. This move away from eating foods containing synthetic additives and preservatives is known as clean eating. Bakeries looking to address consumer concerns are considering formulation changes. From a manufacturing standpoint, switching to a clean label could cause commercial bakeries the following issues:1

  1. No real definition of clean label
  2. Functional ingredients removed
  3. Shelf life decreased

Clean label means something different to consumers than it does to those in the food industry.  For consumers it means simple, short ingredient lists with recognizable ingredients. The ingredient list should reflect the same types of ingredients used at home, and should include no chemicals, nothing artificial, and minimal processing.

Creating a clean label

Moving to a clean label means some ingredients must be removed, but which ones? There are many lists, depending on the stakeholder group: customers, retailers or food resellers. Companies such as Panera and Whole Foods provide a list of acceptable and unacceptable ingredients.3 However, no regulatory definition exists for clean label.2

Although no regulatory definition exits for clean label, keep in mind that clean label products generally have none of the following:1

  • Artificial flavors
  • Colors not naturally in the food
  • Chemical preservatives
  • Synthetically produced ingredients

Ingredients that make up the identity of the product such as flour, water, salt, and yeast are acceptable for clean label, but processing aids and preservatives commonly used in the baking industry do not fall under clean label guidelines. Mono- and diglycerides, DATEM, calcium propionate, colors (yellow 5, red 40, blue 1), polysorbate 60, TBHQ to preserve flavor, and synthetically-sourced sorbic acid are all ingredients that do not fit the clean-label movement. It is important to understand the function and acceptable clean-label replacements for these ingredients before removing them.

  • Oxidizing agents add strength and volume. They are bromates, ADA, iodates, and calcium. Clean-label alternatives include ascorbic acid, gluten, and enzymes.1
  • Bleaching agents are used for whitening flour. They are chlorine and benzoyl peroxide. Clean-label alternatives include enzymes and soy flour.1
  • Emulsifiers add strength, texture, and emulsification. They are sodium (and calcium) stearoyl lactylate, ethoxylated monoglycerides, DATEM, sucrose esters, and polysorbates. Clean-label alternatives include enzymes, lecithin, and natural hydrocolloids.1
  • Preservatives extend shelf life and control mold. They are propionates, sorbates, and benzoates. Clean-label alternatives include cultured whey or wheat flour, vinegar, raisin juice concentrate, sorbic acid, and live cultures.1
  • Stabilizers provide texture and structure. They are modified food starch and synthetic hydrocolloids. Clean-label alternatives include natural hydrocolloids.1
  • Antioxidants provide oxidative stability and a longer shelf life by preventing rancidity. They are TBHQ, BHT, BHA, EDTA. Clean-label alternatives include rosemary extract and fermentates such as cultured whey.1

Bakeries transitioning to a clean label will need to address processing and shelf-life concerns when removing functional ingredients. This could mean a return to the basics of baking with more attention to the process, rather than the convenience, of synthetic ingredients. Controlling time, temperature, and pH will play a key role in reformulating for a clean label.

For more help with clean-label solutions, contact AIB International’s Research and Development team.


  1. “Top 5 Production Problems When Switching to a Clean Label.” AIB International, 28 February 2017, label. Accessed 5 September 2017.
  2. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “FDA Basics – What Is the Meaning of ‘Natural’ on the Label of Food?” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Accessed 5 September 2017.
  3. Wang, S., and K. Adhikar. “Clean Labeling for Food.” University of Georgia, Extension Food Science, Department of Food Science & Technology, Griffin Campus. Accessed 4 September 2017

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