Breaking News on Food & Beverage Development - North AmericaEU edition | APAC edition

News > Markets

Read more breaking news


SupplySide West

Extent of confusion about “natural” continues as trade group works to define the term


By Elizabeth Crawford

Last updated on 22-Oct-2015 at 15:00 GMT2015-10-22T15:00:37Z

Confusion over natural continues as trade group tries to define term

The term “natural” is an extremely effective marketing claim that taps into one of the hottest current trends in food and beverage, but because it is not defined, it leaves consumers confused and companies vulnerable to false claims allegations. 

The Organic & Natural Health Association wants to change that by formally defining natural and creating a certification program for the term.

“One of the things we have become acutely aware of over the last few years is the proliferation of natural products in the marketplace seemingly to coincide with the class action lawsuits that are being filed,” which alleged false advertising, said Karen Howard, CEO and executive director of Organic & Natural.

These lawsuits reflect consumer confusion about what natural means and what they are paying for when they buy products making the claim, she said.

The extent of this confusion was revealed in a recent survey of 1,005 US consumers conducted by the Natural Marketing Institute for Organic & Natural.

The survey found two-thirds of respondents thought natural meant free of synthetic additives and half though the term stood for products that also were free of synthetic pesticides and genetically modified organisms – which are attributes of organic.

Indeed, a third of the respondents thought that natural and organic were the same and 46% though that natural, like organic, is regulated, when it is not.

An evolving definition

Recognizing the need for a standard definition and a way to clear misconceptions about natural, the Natural and Organic Health Association is undergoing a thorough process to define the term.

So far, the association has determined that natural must be 95% approved natural ingredients with the remaining 5% coming from a list of approved non-natural ingredients, such as synthetic letter vitamins, excluding D and E, Howard said.

The association’s definition also means “no GMO allowed, no nano-particles or technology and no cloning,” Howard said.

In addition, natural will go beyond organic for grass fed beef, requiring cattle to be pasture-fed and prohibiting feeding cattle corn, which Howard says is not their natural diet. That said, organic standards are sufficient for produce to meet the definition of natural.

The association is still finalizing the definition of natural for eggs, dairy and poultry, she said.  

Next steps

Simply defining natural is not sufficient, Howard said. She explained the association also will create a formal certification seal for products that meet the definition and a “sophisticated consumer education campaign, so that when we create a seal there is inherent value that millions of customers already understand and acknowledge.”

To qualify for the seal, companies will need to meet an ongoing compliance program that the association hopes to finalize in the first quarter of 2016, Howard said.

Ultimately, she concluded, the standard, compliance program and seal should assure consumers they are getting what they paid for and protect companies from false claims allegations and lawsuits.

2 comments (Comments are now closed)

what is their definition?

It would be helpful to read what is their proposed definition. When they state "natural must be 95% natural ingredients..." they are using the contentious term "natural" in their so-called definition. They are not clarifying anything.

Report abuse

Posted by Steve
22 October 2015 | 19h592015-10-22T19:59:13Z


In other words they are also trying to capitalize on the word "natural", adding to consumer confusion and muddying potential regulatory efforts.

Report abuse

Posted by JPM
22 October 2015 | 18h302015-10-22T18:30:56Z

As soda sales fall, kombucha rises

As soda sales fall, kombucha rises

Tumbling soda sales have opened the door to the mainstream market for a variety...

Bonafide Provisions expands bone broth's appeal with Drinkable Veggies

Bonafide Provisions expands the reach and appeal of bone broth with Drinkable Veggies

As recently as two years ago, bone broth was virtually unheard of by the...

Defining dietary fiber at the 2017 IFT show

VIDEO: Should we define dietary fiber on the basis of what it is or what it does?

Which ingredients should be classified as dietary fibers and why? Elaine Watson caught up...

Sugar Reduction: What’s next? At IFT, companies weigh in

How will added sugar labeling change the market? At IFT, companies weigh in

The controversial requirement to list added sugar on the nutrition facts panel has divided...

Corbion's trans fat-free emulsifiers allow manufacturers to 're-engineer' cakes

Corbion's trans fat-free emulsifiers allow manufacturers to 're-engineer' cakes

"The conversion away from partially hydrogenated oils is really an opportunity to re-engineer cakes...

Cargill R&D VP talks ‘processed’ food, EverSweet, at IFT 2017

VIDEO: Cargill R&D VP talks ‘processed’ food: ‘All food is made of chemicals’

To many consumers, ‘processed food’ is just another term for ‘junk food.’ It’s hard...

Entomo Farms talks edible insects at IFT 2017

Entomo Farms: 'We’re one of the most recognized [edible insect] brands across the world now'

Canadian bug powder supplier Entomo Farms is still doing most of its business with...

Clean meat labeling and regulation in focus at IFT 2017

VIDEO: Will we need a new regulatory framework for clean (cultured) meat?

Producing ‘clean’ meat by culturing cells – instead of raising or slaughtering animals -...

IFT 2017 green banana flour in focus

VIDEO: ‘Green banana flour has the functionality of a starch and the label of a fruit…’

One product that generated quite a buzz at the IFT show this year was...

Retail competition heats up as consumers seek more ethnic products

Competition among retailers heats up as consumers seek more diverse, ethnic products

Consumer demand for products that are authentic and ethnic is not only prompting brand...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: How brands can defend against private label

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: How brands can defend their shelf-space against encroaching private label

The Great Recession of 2008 may be long over, but the penny-pinching it inspired...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: How to refine a pitch

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: How to refine a pitch to woo investors and score retail distribution

Whether it is trying to raise money, build brand awareness or convince a buyer...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: The rise of high pressure processing

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: The rise and potential of high pressure processing for fresh, clean products

In general, talking about how a food or beverage is processed is not a...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Ads that show cooking with kids are relatable

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Tweaking ads to show cooking with kids makes brands relatable

Images of mom preparing dinner alone in the kitchen for her busy family have...

Soup-to-Nuts podcast: The return of consumers to home kitchens

Soup-to-Nuts podcast: The opportunities & challenges of consumers' return to home kitchens

Despite continued pressure from the on-the-go lifestyles that dominate today’s culture and have fueled...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Key strategies for innovation from Kraft Heinz

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Key strategies for innovation & renovation from Kraft Heinz

A commonly held perception of the ongoing renaissance in the food and beverage industry...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: What does it take to win a pitch slam?

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: What does it take to win a pitch slam?

For time-strapped entrepreneurs who are brave enough to take the stage, competing in pitch-slams...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Can duck be a dark horse of animal proteins?

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Can duck become the dark horse of animal proteins?

When it comes to eating meat in the US, chicken, without a doubt, is...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: The business case for kosher certification

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: The business case for kosher certification

Ethical claims on food and beverages sold in the US are almost as ubiquitous...

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Hemp is overcoming hurdles to become superfood

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: How hemp is overcoming hurdles to become the next superfood star

Nutrition-packed, environmentally sustainable and already notoriously well-known – although partly for the wrong reasons...

Key Industry Events