The Simple Ingredient Trend Picks Up Momentum for 2010

By , SparkPeople Blogger
For the past 20 years or so food manufacturers have used every catch phrase from fat free to low carb to organic to all natural on their package labels in hopes to boost sales. And 2010 will be no exception as theses companies move away from complex ingredient lists on their product packaging to a simplified version.

Last April I wrote a blog regarding the first wave from food manufactures, specifically Häagen-Dazs and Frito-Lay, who paved the way to this trend by using simple ingredients in their products and on the label.

Pick up almost any processed food product currently on your local grocery store shelf and it will usually contain a laundry list of difficult to pronounce ingredients. In a world where consumers are becoming more savvy as to the foods they want, maybe simple is the way to go.

And it must be catching on. In a recent article published in USA Today, simple sells. With the success of the Häagen-Dazs Five ice cream line launched earlier this year, other companies are now looking to cash in on the success that 'simple sells.' Companies such as Campbell's and Kraft are quickly following suit by jumping on the bandwagon by offering soup and crackers with five ingredients or less on the label.

But do these pared down ingredient lists offer better options for the consumer?

For me, simple is better, but I am not talking ice cream, crackers, or chips. Those are food items I don't buy any way. In fact, I buy simple every day when I buy fresh fruits and veggies. However, for those who do buy these products I do feel that it will make life a little easier to choose between a product with 20 ingredients and one with five or less.

What do you think? Is this just another trend, just like the low fat trend of years ago or do you feel this is the food manufacturer's answer to simplifying our lives by making shopping easier and healthier?

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Alas, it is just a trend. Companies are always wanting to find new ways to make money. That is part of life as we know it. Report
I think it's just a marketing trend. However, if they are honest with the ingredients listed, then it could be a good thing for consumers. Report
Let's hope they are honest about it too. (Not just hiding or referencing more complex ingredients elsewhere). It must be simpler and cost-saving for them too to create items with fewer ingredients. Report
Simple ingredients may be a new trend, but it will be a nice one for a change. Report
I think this is a trend. The companies are using the equation that "simple" equals "natural" and we then think these items are better. The reality is that it is the product in a new wrapper, an illusion to think this is the same stuff our mom's made for us. It is marketing ploy to have us think their stuff is all "down home good" and some how fresher than the identical product in the can they put out last week. Report
I definitely prefer simple ingredient lists. If I'm going to by a packaged food, I prefer to have a reasonable idea of how I'd make it at home. I don't even have MSG in my pantry, let alone some of the other ingredients I see on labels. Report
I like the Cambell's Select Harvest soup... I understand everything on the label!
I've been thinking along these lines for quite a while. One of the things Michael Pollan says in one of his books is that if your grandparents wouldn't recognize a food or ingredient you shouldn't eat it! I do disagree with this in a lot of places; my grandparents wouldn't recognize edamame, star or kiwi fruit or pluots but I think they are all great but I do agree about the processed foods and chemical ingredients.

I've always liked Clif bars; they taste good, seem reasonably healthy, and don't need to be refrigerated. I can keep a few in the car and briefcase and I can always grab a snack when healthy options are nil. Looking at the ingredient llist these bars have a litany of highly processed ingredients and chemicals. I was really excited when Clif came out with their Nectar bars with only 5 ingredients years ago. Thing is that I just didn't like the way they taste. Then I found Larabars. Larabars also only have 5 ingredients but they are really good. The cherry pie flavor is great; I buy them by the box. Unfortunately Larabars aren't sweet enough for my daughter so I still get Clif bars for her; I figure they are still better than Twinkies. Report
The companies can include lots of thing under "natural flavor", etc. However, they always could. They can't, however, as some have suggested, just drop ingredients from the list without dropping them from the product.

For those of us with food issues (in my case, celiac disease), a shorter list makes for a much faster determination of whether or not a product will be coming home. Naturally, this increases the likelihood that I'll choose that brand's product. The company makes more money, and I'm happy that I saved time and not worried that I missed something in the 45-60 word list of ingredients. Report
I think its a combination of both, now that the FDA requires more simple disclosure of ingredients it will cost less on the manufacturing & packaging. Printing all thos "unkown" ingredients can take up a lot of room. Report
With just less ingredients on a label, as a consumer are we sure that it will contain all of the ingredients in the product or do companies have a way of getting around the truth and just giving the consumer what they want to see ? if that will boost their sales then why wouldn't they market the same product with a different label of ingredients. (if they legally could get away with it.) Report
I'm sure our diet would improve even more if we didn't buy things that had more than one ingredient - well maybe two! If you eat fresh meat, vegetables, and non processed food you don't have to read the labels!!
I do think it's smart marketing. Whether it's healthier or not remains to be seen..... Report
Just another way to charge 8 dollers for a pint of ice cream. Any one notice how he "diet" or "healthy" food is ten times more expensive than the regular version of the item?

My advice if you really want it do it the old fashion way and make it your self. Ofcourse I am addicted do spicy sweet doritos, so maybe I should heed my own advice. Report
I think it is all bogus. Just because they are listing 5 ingredients or less doesn't mean that it is true, it is all about the bottom dollar. I also don't think these companies are reporting to the FDA or whatever it is they do. So, for now I will remain skeptical and pull the vitamix or the blender off the shelf and make my own. Report
I hope it is a new trend that sticks around :) Simple is better and if it is a word you can't pronounce or don't know the meaning of it, I rarely buy it. I like the acronymn that came out as a TREND about 5-10 years ago:
KISS - Keep It Simple Silly!!!!! Report
Doesn't it depend on whether they've really simplified the recipe, or just shortened the list of ingredients? If "hydrogenated vegetable oil [palm kernel or soybean oil]" is replaced with "vegetable oil" but the ingredients are the same, I don't see how there is any benefit. Report
I suspect that at the moment, it's still a trend, such as the low-fat or 100-calorie packs. However, if we as consumers let the producers know that we favor these simpler products by changing our purchases to these options, I feel that it will continue. Report
I agree with's all about the bottom line. Still, it's our responsibility to know what's in our food & make good choices. Report
Think about buying and cooking with those simple foods that you purchase around the outer edge of the store. Okay skip the high fat deli and bakery stuff and loo for the better items. If we can make it in Alaska with the limited sorta fresh stuff you can do it. We have a very expensive farmers market in the summer but a few things are treats. I am still eating tomatoes we grew and picked green. Grow your own, root crops keep well. You don't need a big space and anyone's weather has to be easier to grow in than ours. Keep it simple your self and don't worry what the big companies are marketing. Try eating local and in season. WE HAVE GREAT SALMON! Report
I would like to see the return to simple ingredients, but we still are responsible for choosing smart products. Report
I agree that the less ingrediants the better. Still one has to watch what the ingredients are. I am also trying not to purchase the chips crackers etc anyway but if I do, they will be the most of the healthiest that I can find. Report
I started reading the labels and realized a lot of what I used to eat was not good. If you don't know whats in your food, don't eat it. Report
My question is this, does this mean that there will still be those unpronounceable items in the product anyway? If so, isn't this another attempt to "dumb" us consumers down, similar to the "sensible sweets" label or whatever that was? You still need to be educated about what is real or a fake claim. Report
Simple eating = healthy eating. If you can't pronounce it (additives and artificial ingredients), don't eat it! Report
I try to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. I like to cook so I avoid most weird ingredients. I do however applaud any food corporation who tries to provide a simpler product-even ice cream! Report
I think it's wonderful that so many of the US consumers are starting to be concerned- and this is a pretty simple 'bench mark' for people who aren't obsessed with eating healthy. To me, it means that the 'eating healthy' movement is going mainstream. YEAH!
I tend to buy fresh & make my own quite a bit... but I do buy cereal and crackers and bread quite often. and keep back up soups on the shelves for when I'm feeling burned out or sick. I'll be looking for this. Report
Are these foods really down to 5 ingredients or are the manufacturers just not required to list everything now? What about persons with food allergies? Report
It is a trend. To sell a product you need to present it as something the consumer wants or needs. When you identify a particular comsumer concern, you present your product as a solution to that concern. Report
I think it's a trend. When Betty Crocker first hit the shelves, the mixes only needed a cup of water. They wouldn't sell! They hosted some focus groups and found that people thought it was too simple, too good to be true. So, Betty Crocker added "one egg" to the necessary ingredients, and the mixes began to sell like hotcakes. Report
It's all about marketing and increasing sales. Report
Remember, there are many ingredients that manufactures don't have to list in the processing of their products. Don't be fooled by the simplicity that you see. Until there is full disclosure as to "how it's made" we are still not eating well enough. Please go to to see what I mean. Report
The manufacturers, IMO, don't do ANYTHING in our best interests. They do what they can to sell product and make money. Since America is on such a big health kick, it makes sense that the advertising departments are adjusting their ads as well. They've just found another way to get people to buy their products. Woe to those people who don't understand that "potatoes, oil, and salt" are still FRIED to make potato chips! LOL.

It's about making informed choices. That being said, I LIKE this trend (yes, I think it is a trend). I like knowing that if I DO want to indulge in something sweet like ice cream, that I can buy a product that doesn't have unpronounceable, artificial, lab-created ingredients in it. Report
it's an interesting marketing idea, but not really that much better for the consumer. I want products that offer good taste, good value and good nutrition. Who cares how many ingredients something has? Have you ever looked at a recipe from Martha Stewart Living? They all have tons of (fresh) ingredients, but man are they yummy. Report
Cookies and chips and ice cream made with less ingredients are still cookies and chips and ice cream.

This reminds me of when I went to the flagship Whole Foods store for lunch. I got some delicious cheese steak soup. It was pretty much liquid cheese with bits of steak in it. Sure, it was organic, but that didn't mean it was close to healthy. The nutrition facts are far more important to weight loss than being organic or made with less ingredients.

Also, it's illegal in the US to not include all of the ingredients in the product under the ingredient list. What they're doing is simplifying their ingredient list in an effort to rebrand themselves. Rebranding is done to make you remember that they're still there and to increase sales. Report
My question is... although these companies are going simple, in terms of having 5 ingredients or less listed on the label.. does not neccessarily mean they wont have more than those in the actual product... all the are claiming is to have less items listed... not included. Report
I am all for simple foods with few extra ingredients but I am not sure that this new trend is going to take off. Report
I think this is a horrible idea - every ingredient should be listed. If there are too many - that's the point isn't it? Report
I definitely look for foods that don't have lots of chemicals I can't pronounce on the label. I bought Haagen Daz Five Coffee ice cream and noticed how fresh it weird aftertaste. Same with cereals, juices and snacks. Less is more :) Report
I think that the trend to simpler ingredients is generally a good thing. A cookie, however, is still a cookie. A simple ingredient list doesn't mean that a food is healthy, but I do like to be able to pronounce the components of my food and not needing to google ingredients to find out what they really are. Report
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Ask yourself, why 5 ingredients? Why not 7 or 10? Because in the news, on health topic segments, even Dr. Oz (who I love by the way) and fitness trainers/dieticians from TBL (who I also love) say the "first 5 ingredients" are what should be the thing to check and be aware of...It's marketing pure and simple. Go with your belly brain- if your gut says something isn't right about the product find a different one.. Report
When I started the Biggest Winner competition that I'm currently competing in I stopped buying ice cream. However, prior to that I had switched to all natural (either Breyer's or the black carton Turkey Hill) which have 5 ingredients or less. The ice cream just tasted better than the stuff with all of the HFCS and artificial sweetners. I agree with you that simpler is better, but I also fear that companies will come up with a way to have unhealthy and unnatural ingredients in those "only 5." Report
I think it is great. The less additives, I think, the better our health. Who cares if it is a money ploy, as long as we get to benifit from it? The more we can get back to natural and away from artificial, its a! Report
It seems like a good idea but I am wondering what exactly is being cut off the list to make the five or less mark. Are they actually making the product in a different way or are they simply including the long lists of items and just hiding from you everything that is in the product? It does not seem practical if an item is made with 25 ingredients and it only names 5, because the consumer is not getting a good idea of what exactly is going in to their body. It's partly why I look at the nutrition label, and I don't like the idea of wondering if there is something else in my food that I haven't been told about. Report
If it means that we'll have more healthy options, then I think it's a great idea. People have to keep in mind that even though potato chips may have only three or four ingredients, they are still potato chips. By the way, Breyers has been saying this for years about its vanilla ice cream. Report
It is another hoax, they just want your money and will stay just this side of legal to get it. Report
A certain crisp (chips) brand in the UK currently says 'check out my ingredients', where is says 'potatoes, sunflower oil, salt and vinegar flavouring'.

Great, yes? Really healthy?

No-there is a little hdden asterisk which takes you to the 10 item lists of ingredients in the 'salt and vinegar flavouring'. It's all nonsense I reckon and I think the only solution is to cook yourself from scratch and avoid the processed food. Report
The less I have to read on a label the better. Report
I'm trying very hard to read all labels and figure out what's in the products I am eating! Report
I know that food manufacturers want to make money. If you're in business that should be the goal, but I do enjoy the movement. Everywhere people are being better educated on the possible ramifications all the artificial and processed food and it's toll on health. So people are being more and more concerned on 'whole foods'. I don't really eat much ice cream, but if I want a treat, I get the Hagen daz five, because it tastes so good and is sooo much more satisfying, I can't even eat an entire serving. Fat and calories wise, its not that great for you. Organic junk food is still junk food, but it is better for your body and you're body will have an easier time knowing what to do with it as opposed to just storing it as fat. I really hope that it's not some fad that dies out. I hope it will carry to the 'diet food' as well that is pre-packaged. I realize it makes the cost go up since they are no longer able to use the cheap sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup, yuk) and fillers. I'd rather invest an extra dollar in my health to get the higher quality product. And it is always going to be a competitive market. here's to a "simpler" future. Report
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