KANSAS CITY — Age plays a factor in consumer perception of clean label, according to a study from C&R Research that was commissioned by Lesaffre Corp.

Generation Z consumers are more likely to purchase organic items. Millennials tend to be more interested in long-term health. Price is important for Generation X consumers, and baby boomers are more loyal to brands.

Most consumers do not use the term clean label, nor do they have a definition for it, said Nancy Baum, senior research director for Chicago-based C&R Research.

“They don’t necessarily consider themselves to be clean label shoppers,” she said in a webinar organized by Baking & Snack, a sister publication to Milling & Baking News. “Instead, they feel that they identify more with broader values around a healthy lifestyle.”

The study had two phases. In the first phase, C&R Research personnel visited consumers in their homes and learned their attitudes and perceptions about bread and health. Then they went shopping with the consumers at a grocery store. The second phase involved an online survey with over 1,300 bread purchasers.

The survey found 56% of respondents said they read nutrition labels carefully before making a purchase while 73% said they were willing to pay more for products with trustworthy ingredients.

When asked their dominant purchase driver for bread, 92% said taste, which was followed by crust at 70%, soft texture at 67%, made with whole grains at 63% and simple, recognizable ingredients at 62%.

“It’s important to keep in mind that when it comes to bread, enjoying it is their priority. They still want to enjoy bread.” — Nancy Baum, C&R Research

“It’s important to keep in mind that when it comes to bread, enjoying it is their priority,” Ms. Baum said. “They still want to enjoy bread. Consumers don’t necessarily see it as a health food. Rather, it’s something to make them happy, provide comfort and enjoyment.”

Generation Z consumers, millennials and Generation X were most likely to be interested in clean label benefits than baby boomers.

When asked whether they sought products with locally sourced ingredients, Generation Z came in with the highest percentage at 44%.

 “They are more likely to look for locally sourced ingredients, and they are willing to pay more for organic food compared to older generations,” Ms. Baum said. “They are not necessarily doing this with just their health in mind. In fact, they are the age group most likely to agree they can eat whatever they want without worrying about weight or health. Instead, they place importance on putting their dollars on brands that match their values, especially around social responsibility.”

Millennials also were likely to say they seek products with locally sourced ingredients and were willing to pay more for organic food. At 66%, millennials were most likely to eat with long-term health in mind.

“So when they are in the bread aisle, they are reading labels carefully,” Ms. Baum said. “They are paying attention to claims around specific ingredients, especially calories, fat, added sugar and preservatives.”

Generation X, especially those with teenagers in the home, were most likely to reject junk food at 55%. They want products to be free from artificial preservatives, but they are price-conscious, too.

“This could lead them to be more open to consider a different brand when they are at the shelf,” Ms. Baum said.

Baby boomers, at 71%, were the least likely to change eating habits. They were most likely to be loyal to bread brands.

“They are at this stage in their life where they know what they like,” Ms. Baum said. “They know what works for them.”

When all age groups were asked why they do not want certain ingredients in baked foods, 37% said ones that were unfamiliar or hard to pronounce, 29% said ingredients that were unhealthy or not good for you, and 22% said those that were not natural or real.

Common emulsifiers that may not be perceived as clean label include mono- and diglycerides, sodium stearoyl lactylate (SSL), calcium stearoyl lactylate (CSL) and diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides (DATEM), said Bill Hanes, vice president of marketing and strategy for Lesaffre, Milwaukee. Calcium propionate and L-cysteine were other ingredients not considered clean label.

Enzymes, including those in dough conditioners, are potential alternatives.

“When you make these changes to clean up your label, you got to make sure you keep the taste,” he said.