Estimated time - 6 min

The tendency of consumers to be informed and reassured about the products they consume is not new in Europe. Since the health crises of the 1990s, consumers have come to realize that food is not just there to meet nutritional needs and address nutrient deficiencies. On the contrary, food can impact human health, of course positively, but also negatively. Since then, consumers have always felt the need to re-appropriate the products they consume, with an explicit desire for proximity and transparency in order to regain a certain level of confidence.

The need for naturalness

One of the areas for meeting these expectations is the naturalness of a product. But what exactly does the naturalness of a product correspond to? From when can we judge whether a product is natural or not? In reality, this concept varies from consumer to consumer, each with different expectations and sensitivities. Without a very precise definition, it is not always easy to grasp this concept, so the food industry does not systematically succeed in meeting this consumer expectation. Generally, consumer surveys show that the notion of naturalness is associated with several types of products:

  • Products from organic farming;
  • So-called “clean label” products;
  • Products bearing “free” type claims;
  • Products positioning themselves in the “back to basics” and “home-made” trends with simple recipes and ingredients known to the consumer.

The “naturalness” of a product therefore depends on the perception of consumers, but also on the ingredients that compose it, as well as on the production process (agricultural and / or processing of the product). Since the years 2000s, these three pillars have been perfectly identified by scientific work.



The three pillars of consumer expectations around the naturalness of a food. Figure taken from article by Sergio Roman et al (

The realization of an expectation

Research as well as consumer surveys have helped to better define this expectation around naturalness. However, this clarification could not have been done without the contribution of several societal actors, starting with consumer associations. Since the mid-2000s, these associations have regularly alerted to the supposed dangers of production methods or ingredients, such as food additives. From the 2010s, the scientific promotion of Nutri-Score sounded like the era of the democratization of scores, allowing consumers to know the relevance of a product at a glance. Smartphone applications, like Yuka, have only confirmed this clarification of consumer expectations, focusing in particular on food additives – symbols of industrial food, as opposed to natural food which is would be lacking. Other notions revolving around naturalness have recently appeared. First example: the degree of food processing. A very recent FIFG study for the company SIGA underlines that the French closely associate the naturalness of a food with its degree of processing. Foodinnov experts have already had the opportunity to discuss this subject in detail,  on the blog ( . Another example of a score that can reflect an expectation of naturalness: the Eco-Score, which provides information on the environmental impact of a food and which is still in the experimentation phase.

Foodinnov is here to help

Foodinnov has historically been committed, alongside food companies, to meeting consumer expectations through tailor-made support. During a recent Valorial Connection conference dedicated to the naturalness of food,  Foodinnov was able to reaffirm its commitment to the naturalness of food. Taking into account the fulfillment of consumer expectations through different scores, Foodinnov support on naturalness is available in three levels:

  • Focus on food additives: the AdditiveScreener database gives you all the elements (media and scientific) to make the right decisions on additives authorized in the European Union;
  • Focus on ultra-processed foods and ultra-processing markers: Foodinnov experts help you take charge of and understand the NOVA and SIGA classification, in order to empower your R&D teams with a view to reformulation;
  • Optimization of different scores: the NaturalScreener tool gives you avenues for the combined optimization of the Nutri-Score, the NOVA score as well as the Eco-Score.