The panel debate will address the following questions:
- What does research tell us about what consumers regard to be ‘natural’? Is ‘natural’ a rather nebulous – and constantly evolving – concept? Does it amount to more than just a list of acceptable or unacceptable ingredients on a food label? What other cues are consumers looking for when deciding if a product is natural and wholesome? eg. Does natural just mean ‘nothing artificial’? Or could it also mean safer, healthier, more ethical or more sustainable? How does it relate to organics? How do consumers determine if something is ‘less processed’?
- Who is driving the natural and clean-label agenda? Consumers? NGOs? Retailers? Big brands? Natural products manufacturers?
- What processing methods render a product from a natural source (corn, stevia) un-natural? What if a natural flavor or sweetener is extracted using a solvent perceived as un-natural such as hexane? How much processing is too much? What if a product has been genetically engineered? eg. Will consumers accept new healthy, ‘natural’ products such as long-chain omega-3s if they are from GM crops?
- Is the term ‘natural’ at risk of becoming devalued? Could it lose its cache if it is co-opted by big brands that slap it on products that might be free from ‘artificial ingredients’, but are by no means ‘healthy’ or wholesome?